London WC2 King’s College

Stoopid to the point of genius.

You stand there, wishing, [I]willing[/I] Billie Joe Armstrong to say it, to verbalise the unspoken subtext of tonight’s hush-hush comeback gig: “Stand aside, [a]Blink 182[/a], [a]Lit[/a], 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 [I]Evening Session[/I], 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.