A Knees-Up at Mile End

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On June 17, 1995, Blur played their first stadium concert, filling the Mile End stadium in London. There was a lot of riding on the gig. In the year since Parklife was released, the band had become the most popular band in England and, in the process, reshaped the landscape of the nation's popular music. Mile End was the first gig Blur played that confirmed the stature of their popularity and if the concert was poor, they could have hurt their reputation. Fortunately, the concert was an unqualified success, as the bootleg A Knees Up At Mile End, proves. Performing with a horn section and an extra keyboardist, Blur sounded tough, eclectic, and frenetic, tearing through "Bank Holiday" at an unprecedented speed, but slowing down to give "This Is A Low" a properly epic arrangement. In between, they ran through most of the highlights of Parklife and Modern Life Is Rubbish, throwing in a couple of Leisure tracks ("She's So High"), B-sides (the instrumental "Supa Shoppa"), and new songs along the way. "Country House" -- which would become their first number one single two months later -- was premiered at the gig, as was "Stereotypes'" "Mr. Robinson's Quango" and "Globe Alone," two track from the then-forthcoming The Great Escape, was also previewed. But the meat of the concert was in the impassioned performances of Blur classics, whether it was the vibrant opener "Tracy Jacks," the slamming "Sunday Sunday," the soaring "For Tomorrow," the first-ever live performance of Alex James' "Far Out" or the singalong of "Parklife," twhich featured a guest appearance from Phil Daniels. Kiss The Stone's Mile End is the best boot of the show, but in a pinch, A Knees Up At Mile End will do. A Knees Up At Mile End cuts a few songs off of set list -- including a gorgeous "To the End" -- and the sound quality is a little rough in spots, although it certainly remains passable. For dedicated Blur fans, the concert is an essential purchase in nearly any format -- it captures the band at the peak of their powers at the peak of their popularity during the summer of Britpop.

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