Cambridge Corn Exchange

The first thing that lets you know [B]Bush[/B] have broken cover on new century Brit soil is not the howl of gossip column yabbering about the money they've made in America or which now-girl [B]Gavin

The first thing that lets you know Bush have broken cover on new century Brit soil is not the howl of gossip column yabbering about the money they’ve made in America or which now-girl Gavin Rossdale’s not shagging. Their re-emergence fanfare is instead a bloody-fingered slamchurninbroilpig of a power chord and it belongs to Nigel Kenneth Pulsford, the hairiest avant-rocker with no hair in all Britain. Go Nigel! Go!

They open up in front of the Korn T-shirted, teen crowd with the skull pop grunter ‘The Disease Of Dancing Cats’, and for all that Gavin hoiks himself onto the monitors doing his Jesus Of Gravelly Voiced Pain bit, it’s humble Nige in his baggy pants, making avant love to his effects rack who gives them gravitas. They tear through ‘Machinehead’ and ‘Greedy Fly’, Gavin bouncing and pushing his frets into the clawing hands. Then they do new song ‘English Fire’, apparently “written about our (national) repression”. Gavin and Nigel blast their sing-a-long-a-Kurt tendencies out of the building with a display of storm-cloud guitar orchestration that Glenn Branca would cut his fingers off for.

Bush return as soundcraft gurus? Not quite. But in the rush to resent them, their basic appeal is often overlooked. It’s a punishing, primal urge thing and in a medium-small venue (for them), it’s pretty awesome to witness these by-now stadium professionals metal nouveau-ing right in your face.

A good night for the riff connoisseur, then. Modulated thunder rockers like ‘Warm Machine’ and the anthemic ‘The Chemicals Between Us’ call up devil hand signs from the moshpit. On the level of upholding the heritage of the Pixies, H|sker D|, Sugar and Soundgarden, they give great raw whooomph.

Weird then that halfway through the gig, Gavin asks, “Is everyone happy?” Forty minutes of rip-throat vocals on the subject of pain, claustrophobia and drowning and he wants to know if the party’s swinging? At the eye of the band’s bleak vortex, Gavin’s desire to be the star sits oddly. He does Ashcroft-isms convincingly, beckoning the crowd to rise with him, and you can’t fault him for effort. A new graduate of the Iggy Pop Finishing School, he spends three songs rolling in kids and beer. But the speed with which his shirt comes off betrays an actorliness which doesn’t help when you’re a service provider of Bush’s ilk.

What services do Bush provide tonight? They allow the going-through-a-phase moshers and the proto-goth girls to feel lovelorn discontent as a magnificent sensation. It’s angst as a funfair ride and it’s sometimes a lot closer to The Cure than they’d like to think.

So for the encores they plane through the Seattle-pop tunes, kids bouncing off the walls, oblivious to chic behaviour. Nigel grins like a man having his art cake and eating it and Gavin sings ‘Glycerine’ without the band while a prism of light freeze frames him for what he is – a knowing, healthy, late-phase palliative for Gen X-ish alienation. And not a bad tunesmith.

Nige’s slamchurninbroilpig powerchords 2: starposin’ theatrics 1.