London WC2 Astoria

The magic's still there, and new songs like 'Postcards' are welcomed as feverishly as 'Larry'...

The girlfriend offers a smile. "They're even better than Del Amitri," enthuses her rugby-shirted, baseball-capped beau, "that good." It's official then: Buffalo Tom, Boston's cherished college rockers, perform more heartily than a group of dreary Scottish journeymen. Glad we sorted that out and all, but, like, huh?

Then again, it's easy to forget that Bill Janowitz's prairie-wide yearnings and single white male angst preceded the frat-pack Americana of Hootie and Deep Blue Something. Yet now, despite a back catalogue of alluring quality, Buffalo Tom find themselves going nowhere leisurely, while appealing to an audience probably more at home, um, at home.

A point not lost on the band, who opt for a greatest hits set drawing heavily from their classic 'Let Me Come Over' album, a record that articulated cheesy sentiments like hope and love on 'Taillights Fade' and 'Velvet Roof' when all around was grunge ugly. That they never capitalised on its durable success wasn't for want of trying; everyone else had moved on. The magic's still there, and new songs like 'Postcards' are welcomed as feverishly as 'Larry' and, shucks, their first ever single 'Sunflower Suit' - brittle things with big-hearted choruses, animated by Bill's bruised Bryan Adams-isms.

If they were emerging today, they would be championed on Chris Evans FM and lauded for their passion and commitment to 'real' music. Times change, though, and now some say they're better than Del Amitri. But mainly, they're just better.

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