London Wembley Arena

...expecting to entice fresh-blood with this murk is like swapping their PlayStation for a hoop and top. ..

He ambles to the lip of the stage, still on the cusp between drag Bagpuss and unfortunate botanical experiment, ruffles his hair like a fractious child, smiles into the darkness. And immediately, like monks across a misty pasture, all your yesterdays come creeping darkly back. Your mother saying that it’s all just droning. Fringe and jumper matting together in one [I]Quatermass[/I]-like entity. Interviews about Hubba Bubba, [I]Star Wars[/I], and the importance of looking like a decomposing Marilyn. These were the days before Ibiza and “tune!” replaced Elysium and doom, before industrial rage usurped pre-penicillin angst, when it was Vespasian The Teenager who lurked and tutted under badly cut hair and worse phrased poetry. Where are all the [I]fleurs du mal[/I] gone? Ah, long time passing.

Tonight, though, Robert and [a]Simon[/a] and Perry go large once more. They gave you the best worst years of their lives – the least you can do is offer up three hours as libation. It quickly transpires, however, that after all those years, your mother might have had a point. There really is a lot of droning here, pulsing with all the vital spark of a flatlining hospital monitor. [I]Eleven[/I] minutes of ‘Watching Me Fall’? Her hair might be black, the bed might be white – but expecting to entice fresh-blood with this murk is like swapping their PlayStation for a hoop and top.

As the largely taciturn Smith strums and wanders, it’s clear this is drawing to an end like a particularly long eulogy, yet for a cheap day return to the tarry pits of alienation, it’s still as much fun as you can have with your cloak on. Yes, most of the material from ‘Bloodflowers’ stretches your attention span like perished fishnet – except, perhaps, ‘There Is No If’, a love song so sweet bluebirds settle on Smith‘s shoulder and deer gambol by – but you still happily hand over the gloom dollar for ‘Shake Dog Shake’, or ‘One Hundred Years’, for basslines like mausoleums and ‘Inbetween Days’, for five men for whom a summer wardrobe is an unknown concept and a dying art is not the same as death. Next week: we review the latest developments in falconry.