The Zodiac is full of anticipation. A gaggle of giddy school–girls clamour in front of the stage.
Those of us who are more reserved are just as excited. We await the return of Eel Pie Island’s finest – the Mystery Jets.
As the reverberating air raid siren that opens their new album Twenty One blasts out of the speakers, it’s obvious we’re in for a rollicking performance.
‘We were a bit worried about the siren’, frontman Blaine Harrison tells me prior to the gig. ‘We wanted something that when it came on, you knew exactly what record it is.’
‘I really didn’t want to do it’, drummer Kapil Trivedi points out. ‘Even our producer was a bit like “I dunno, is it Nu-Rave?” But to me it’s Cold War, not Nu-Rave. It’s just one of those sounds that alerts people’.
The band have not been averse to alerting people of late, what with their reappearance on the music map with a much poppier sound, but having lost Blaine’s father and founding member Henry Harrison.
The decision to carry on without him was mutual, however.
‘We all thought we need to spread our wings a bit and take control’ says Blaine, ‘And Henry said from the start there’d come a time where we’d need to take the reins.’
Henry was still intrinsic to the recording process however, as was up–and–coming DJ–turned–producer Erol Alkan. I asked the band how they got him on board.
‘We camped outside his house, kidnapped his wife, held her at ransom’, Kapil explains with sincerity.
Blaine is more effusive; ‘We were basically like fanboys, but he was a fan of us as well. He brought a lot of enthusiasm and seemed to be the only one who could bring us all together. He was adamant he’d bring our sound out of ourselves’.
‘And be Erol Alkan the producer, not Erol Alkan the DJ’, Kapil adds.
Without Henry on stage the band have a much more youthful aesthetic, which better suits songs like the undoubted single of the year ‘Young Love’.
It’s a credit to the band that even without the dreamy, drowsy vocals of Laura Marling the song loses none of its frothy pleasure.
Other new tracks such as ‘First To Know’ and ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’ are despatched with a tightness which belies their relative freshness.
Even older tunes like ‘The Boy Who Ran Away’ and ‘Diamonds In The Dark’ benefit from this new sense of focus.
Blaine explains, ‘I still love the first album. It’s the sound of a band who were trying to do so many things at the same time. What we worked out on the second album was to do that, but over several albums, not in three minutes of one song’.
The only disappointment of the night was the lack of the Mystery Jets’ stunning pastel suits, which were worn in the hilarious video for just–the–right–side–of–80s–pastiche ‘Two Doors Down’.
Apparently remonstrations from their management mean they cannot treat everyone to a dazzling display of authentic Turkish wedding attire.
However, such petty grievances are soon forgotten as the set ends with barnstorming renditions of fan favourites ‘You Can’t Fool Me Dennis’ and the ever–chanted ‘Zoo Time’.
It is a performance from a group who have matured and found their voice while retaining the ability to put on a frenetic show. As Kapil informs me, ‘You know it’s been a good gig when you have to scrape the kids off the walls.’
Indeed, the Zodiac staff will be extracting jubilant youths from the plasterboard for days.