London WC2 King's College

Stoopid to the point of genius.

London WC2 King's College

You stand there, wishing, willing Billie Joe Armstrong to say it, to verbalise the unspoken subtext of tonight's hush-hush comeback gig: "Stand aside, Blink-182, Lit, and the rest of you airbrushed, stylised pretenders to our snot-encrusted pop-punk throne... Green Day are BAAAAAACK!" He never does, of course, but after 90 or so minutes of instrument-trashing, gob'n'cider-drenched, ear bleed-inducing tunefulness, he scarcely needs to.

Tonight's set, recorded for Steve Lamacq's Evening Session, might be the first public debut of material from the new 'Warning' LP, but Green Day certainly don't seem overly anxious about the occasion. They're like a punk-rock Marx Brothers, goofing together and with the audience, dribbling an infectious, agreeable mischief. Billie Joe's a Tasmanian devil-in-miniature, pulling faces and throwing dumb shapes and playing moving-target for an endless rain of cider thrown from the crowd. He revels in playing the idiot, a welcome, refreshing change from the wall-to-wall machismo that currently constitutes rock in MTV-land.

The new songs aren't, unsurprisingly, a radical departure from the hyper-melodic thrashalongs of yore. Any one of them could fit seamlessly onto the boys' unit-shifting breakthrough, 'Dookie' - no mean feat considering the woeful deluge of pop-punk effluent that followed in its wake and proof of how difficult it was to replicate such 'simple' magic. 'Church On A Sunday' and 'Blood, Sex And Booze' are high-speed cocktails of dirty-grins and angelic harmonies, while new single 'Minority' is a Clash-esque stomp with an acid lyric.

Elsewhere, the Day's Day-Glo back catalogue of songs about wanking gets a most rugged seeing to, from the ridiculous riffage of 'Welcome To Paradise', to the mini-epic 'Longview', to 'When I Come Around', as close as we get to a ballad tonight (the soppy 'Time Of Your Life' is on the setlist, but the band's equipment is thankfully trashed before they get a chance to play it). There's also a selection of hardcore covers, from the Sex Pistols through Operation Ivy to NOFX, played not out of some misplaced sense of punk-rock guilt, but just for kicks.

And Green Day make a virtue of being 'just for kicks', by being the very best at what they do. As tonight proves, the competition can't hold a torch to their infallible tunes and shabby charisma. Stoopid to the point of genius.

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