London WC2 Theatre Royal

They are an offence to no-one, and that was never the point at all...

So tell me more about haircuts. A cigarette absent from his lips, the [I]bon mots[/I] locked away in a secret velvet box, Martin Rossiter boldly steps out onto the rickety ‘low-key’ Riverside boards, to reveal a new man.

And oh, Mother, it’s not just the cruelly cropped hair, or the jowly evidence of second helpings that hang around guitarist Steve Mason’s face. What Gene (remember: leaking garrets, sensitivity, use of the phrase “one has considered footballing”) have done is to swap their consumptive artistry for that sturdy loafer, normality. Once Martin was a big girl’s shirt. Now he’s a Ben Sherman.

Less sherry and kind men from Biggleswade, more meat pie and Shed End, we find Gene to have changed their colours to join the war on fops. There is still the mastery of elegance in ‘Olympian’, and the thumping ‘Be My Light, Be My Guide’, but that the majority of this set of avowed ‘greatest hits’ should be composed of the bland modness of ‘Drawn To The Deep End’ speaks not of glorious outsiderdom (formerly their trump card), but of the less noble urge to fit in.

Gene are tonight ‘robust’. Their songs are well and passionately executed, but the less obnoxious they make themselves, their mannerisms and charisma hidden away, they are an offence to no-one, and that was never the point at all. At a ridiculous cost, they have made themselves unassailable.

All-present and fighting fit, then. It’s just that on those terms, nobody wants a war.