Pop: BLUR

Mile End Stadium, London
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O n Saturday, Blur came to rejuvenate a dank corner of London that you wouldn't normally visit without your most heavily tattooed mates. And they pulled it off: the music seemed suddenly to be about more than just life in the city's pubs and dog-tracks, images that the band have begun to transcend. But this was an event, so it wasn't only rain we had to suffer, but other bands. Dodgy were near the bottom of the bill, though on the evidence of their lethargic set, not near enough. The synth duo Sparks brightened matters when Ron Mael, a man so square and sinister you imagine he'd do your accounts, then murder your pets, broke into an incongruous tap-dance.

But their pulsing pleasures were lost on all but a crazed ginger backpacker who was on acid or bad tofu. And the Boo Radleys, diverting enough in a confined space, lack the electricity to captivate such a large audience. Besides, they played too many twee songs that made you feel like going home and murdering your own pets.

As entrances go, Blur's was peculiar, with the band taking up posts beneath a set that suggested a Michael Clark interpretation of Close Encounters. Above a mock-bandstand blinking with neon hung four gigantic cheeseburgers. Yes, cheeseburgers. Either that or we had all fallen prey to the ropy tofu.

While it seems churlish to complain about these props, particularly in an art form built of inflatable pigs and giant spiders, the last thing you wanted to look at as the majestic "To the End" filled the air was oversized junk food - kills the mood a bit. You still got rushed along with the band's enthusiasm. "That was GREAT!" exclaimed singer Damon Albarn after "Magic America", which had thousands of arms swinging aloft. The little-boy act is endearing now; it will be a challenge to see what takes its place in a few albums' time.

We were treated to three snapshots from the next album, the crucial follow- up to the obscenely successful Park Life. The best, "Country House", concerns a neurotic pop star and includes the lyric, "I'm a professional singer/ but my heart's not in it." The others, "Globe Alone" and "Stereotypes" ("it's about your parents"), sound like routine glammed-up stompers, but maybe they're just saving the best for later.

As night invaded the stadium, and the sky turned that shade of muddy London orange, the surrounding tower blocks looked on, a few people gathering at a few lit windows to catch a glimpse of the show. Which sounds a bit like a Blur song. Only tonight their parochial tales achieved a scope and poignancy we hadn't predicted.

"For Tomorrow" was the highlight: quietly profound and painfully moving, the song was enormous. Like the gaudy lighting, it illuminated the sky - the East End hadn't seen so much colour since the Krays were opening their enemies' arteries. The standard critique of Blur, which chastises their laddishness, skips this part, the part where you hear "For Tomorrow" and think: Please don't let this end, not ever.

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