Middlesbrough Arena

[I]Nervous[/I]? Surely not. Not the reborn, rejuvenated, all-tough, reinforced, everything-resistant [b]Elastica[/b]?

[I]Nervous[/I]? Surely not. Not the reborn, rejuvenated, all-tough, reinforced, everything-resistant Elastica? Surely not. But it looks that way tonight, at least for a while. Instead of the triumphant, arms-aloft, returning conqueror-queen stance you might expect, Justine ambles on stage grinning almost [I]shyly[/I] through her enormous fringe.

And this isn’t even a massive crowd of cynical festival-goers challenging them to prove their might before they’re allowed to re-enter the arena full-time. These are devoted fans (the publicity for this gig was near enough nish), some even travelling up to Middlesbrough without a ticket on a wing and a prayer. They [I]cannot fail[/I], even if they play like shit – which they don’t.

Still, it’s probably a wise move. They’re aware of the delicacy of the situation. If they were to charge back into this, all bravado and bluster, then put one foot wrong, that’d be it. Gone. Kaboom. No more second chances, not after keeping us waiting this long.

And so they ease into it, a tightly reined-in ‘Line Up’ and ‘Car Song’ still sounding unnaturally jerky halfway through the set. It isn’t until the cover of Trio‘s ‘Da Da Da’, weirdly, that they start loosening up, covering it in ace squealing guitar. ‘Love Like Ours’ is vintage Elastica – low slung and indolent, but with guitars that sound like they’re being played with railings. By the time they get to ‘Connection’, triumphant doesn’t even begin to describe the way they’re playing. On the evidence of tonight, there’ll be no Stone Roses-style debacle at Reading and Leeds. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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