Lights flash faster and faster, an electric chord follows suit; “howy’alld oinouttheretonight?!” bellows a voice. This is the frenzied end to the first song tonight from the inhibitionless, perpetually grinning, punk/funk/cock-rock explosion that is the new-look Rapture. Tonight features plenty of mid-song, mid-air drumstick-punching with numerous pairs of pants launched at the bass player’s head and a bit where the singer goes, “Heeey-ay-ayyy-ay!” and the entire place goes, “Heeey-ay-ayyy-ay!” right back at him. It’s a machine-gunning massacre of the first row with a six-stringed weapon. One red tongue juts out towards us and a thousand solos are played with gritted teeth… Rock’n’frickin’roll!
Yes, this really is a Rapture gig; we promise. Where previously there were chin-stroking fashionistas pretending they’d always been into Gang Of Four, now there are screaming, sweating, dancing disciples. And where once there were four hip New Yorkers who often appeared ill at ease with their position, now there is an endearing, goofy rock’n’roll party band having the time of their lives. Not since NME’s, reoccurring dream about strutting spandex-clad on to the stage at the new Wembley Stadium’s opening ceremony have we seen so much rock posturing.
The signs were there in comeback single ‘Get Myself Into It’. Frankly, you don’t write choruses that gloriously, vein-bustingly inane if you want people to keep comparing you to PiL – you write them because you want to make people move. Well, tonight they succeed, with crowd-melting results. ‘Whoo! Alright Yeah, Uh Huh’, a revamped (very) oldie ‘Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks’, and the now-super-anthemic ‘Sister Saviour’ (that’s the one with the “Heeey-ay-ayyy-ay!” call-and-response bits) are jet-packed anthems. ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’, obviously, is immense – a foot-stomping, genre-creating anthem that’ll be filling dancefloors across the planet long after everyone in this room is dead (a situation likely to be accelerated by the kind of frenetic behaviour on show tonight).
During their lengthy repose, The Rapture may have seen dozens of soundalike bands spring up in their place (all the new rave brigade owe them a massive debt), but those bouncing basslines, Luke Jenner’s high-pitched yelp and, of course, the cowbell have lost none of their freshness.
What has really changed, however, is that this is now a band with two bona fide frontmen. Bassist Mattie Safer, previously restricted to mere cameos, now takes on at least half the lead vocal duties, even shedding his instrument for lo-fi glam-stomp oddity ‘Pieces Of The People We Love’. This allows his bandmate to wink at his drummer, roam the stage and generally live out his every guitar-hero fantasy. After a triumphant encore of ‘Down For So Long’ and ‘Olio’, a beaming Luke Jenner even stagedives, remaining in the crowd for a good 15 minutes after the band have left the stage, signing autographs and getting hugged. A lot.
None of which, you suspect, is going to sit very well with the hipsters that populated Rapture gigs the first time around. They would like their post-punk done as it was in 1979: ie, with a generous helping of doom and misery and without any sense of fun, let alone machine-gun guitar poses. So, it looks like they’re just going to have to find someone else to stare at moodily, because it is clear that The Rapture have evolved into a full-steam fun machine. And frankly, they are much, much better for it.