Nothing says reunion tour quite like fists thrust into the air above bobbing bald patches. 20年と変化は離れるのに長い時間です, and there is a bashfulness to guitarist-vocalist Sice Rowbottom’s banter that betrays the fact that the Boo Radleys, completed by bassist Tim Brown and drummer Rob Cieka, with former songwriter Martin Carr remaining on the sidelines, are still working towards peak fitness.
Having passed up an open goal by electing not to begin their first show in 24 years with the towering Lazarus, the group turn to their finest song as a pre-encore kicker, offering a glimpse of what they may be capable of once the ring rust has worn off.
When they hit their straps, as they do on a bullish Kingsize and a lilting From the Bench at Belvidere, which is dedicated to Carr, there are harmonies and guitar jangle to spare. Brown and Cieka’s muscle-memory back-and-forth hits a high-water mark on a boisterous Wish I Was Skinny, conjuring the band that skipped across the shoegaze-Britpop divide, but elsewhere it’s a see-saw affair.
“This song’s got trumpets in. 番号, not that one,” Rowbottom smirks while introducing a freewheeling Find the Answer Within, summing up a couple of problems in a single line: their use of backing tracks and the spectre of their enduring hit single. Their “little black box” may be a financial necessity but there are times, notably during new songs You and Me and All Along, when the number of elements not being created in the moment becomes jarring.
When it does arrive, with an apparent sense of resignation, Wake Up Boo! suffers the same fate. Shorn of its spiralling backing vocals and with its horns reduced to a programmed facsimile, it almost sucks some hard-won buzz from the room. This appears to be the right kind of comeback, one founded on warmth and, given Carr’s absence, a somewhat pointed commitment to fresh music, suggesting that the Boo Radleys might be better off cutting ties with the song and choosing instead to indulge themselves and the fans rather than the casual onlooker.