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The Latest Review: The La's, Leicester University, 1991

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When I went entered higher education I was convinced it was going to be a heady combination of Cambridge Footlights, Brideshead Revisited and The Beatles in Hamburg. Imagine my disappointment when I arrived to find that it was, in fact, just Leicester Polytechnic.

Still, I was determined to have some rock and roll good times so when I saw that one of my favourite bands, The La's, were playing across town at the University I decided that this would be my first ever proper gig. It said "Doors 7.30pm" on the ticket so I thought I'd better get there at seven o'clock to make sure I didn't miss anything.

After several hours wandering around the Students' Union reading posters and trying to look as if I was waiting for someone a few other people arrived in the building, many of whom were The Milltown Brothers, the support act for the evening. They played "Here I Stand", "Apple Green" and all those other songs that sound just like "Here I Stand" and "Apple Green" to an audience of about twenty.

I was a bit surprised that there weren't more people there - I assumed that this was everybody who was coming. I mean, if you've paid for a ticket you'd be sure and get there in time to see ALL the bands on the bill wouldn't you? I was even more shocked when the room cleared completely as soon as The Milltown Brothers had finished. Had it been an outing by The Milltown Brothers fan club? Was I the only person here for The La's? And so was I about to get a private concert, ending in Lee Mavers thanking me personally for attending and asking if I'd like to join the band, on VIBES and poetry?

No, I wasn't. Twenty minutes later the lights dimmed, The La's came onstage, and several hundred people came running back in from the bar, crushing me against the front of the stage where I'd been waiting happily. I suddenly found myself in the middle of an enormous mosh pit where enthusiastically fat men threw themselves and their beer at each other and, mostly, at me.

After fifteen minutes of trying to join in and then, when I realised my glasses were at risk, struggling to get out, I finally made my way to a safe spot further back, where I could actually hear what was going on. Here I was hugely disappointed to find a complete lack of the kind of witty stage banter I'd been led to expect from television dramatizations. John Power would say "Cheers" at the end of each song, but that was it. I couldn't help but feel snubbed.

When the encore came around I hoped that this - frankly - impolite behaviour would at least be compensated for with a few celebrity guests. That's what happens on the telly but instead we got a ten minute instrumental dirge and then a swift exit without even a "Thank you for having us." They'd even given up speaking to us in the songs themselves!

My report once I got home was disgruntled but defiant. "The La's were a bit rubbish, " I said, "but I bet in years to come I'll be boasting about seeing an early Milltown Brothers gig!" and, in a way, I was right.
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