Crowded House, MEN Arena, Manchester; Sons of Albion/ Big Linda, Barfly, Brighton

When a band gets back together after a lengthy hiatus, it's easy to assume that its members have run out of options or ideas and are just trying to recapture past glories. Not so Crowded House. Once the leader Neil Finn asked the bass player Nick Seymour to contribute to what was intended to be another solo album, this most organic of reformations became inevitable.

Rather than touting a greatest hits set even if they start with the old favourite "Private Universe" Crowded House are touring Time on Earth, their sixth studio album. With Seymour teasing the intro on the Wurlitzer, the gorgeous "Don't Stop Now" the best song on the album comes early as the insistent Police-like riff builds until it swirls around your brain.

An inspired lyricist, Finn can turn the most mundane of starting points in that instance the shortcomings and frustrations of satnav into a yearning plea for his wife to get home, and throw in a few lines about the predicament of the writer in front of a blank sheet of paper.

Finn has insisted that this isn't a one-off reunion, that the group are a going concern, and Time on Earth does indeed contain some of their best work. Not that the sedate audience takes poignant songs like "Pour le Monde" or "People Are Like Suns" to its collective bosom instantly. Crowded House's simmering melodies made them a slow-burning act until they exploded into the mainstream with Woodface, their third album, which spent nearly two years in the British charts in the early Nineties. So the sinuous "Fall At Your Feet" gets a rapturous welcome but the Time on Earth material will take a little longer to sink in.

Over in Brighton, meanwhile, is the new generation of rock. Classic rock has never gone away: to wit Big Linda and their support band Sons of Albion, who have Logan Plant on vocals. As soon as he stars wailing about "evil ways", there's no mistaking the son of Robert Plant. More androgynous-looking than his father ever was, he can't help having some of the mannerisms and a piercing register.

Ironically, Big Linda sound more like Led Zeppelin than their support band, especially on "Get It While You Can" and "Suddenly Attacked". An infuriatingly schizophrenic group, they are really much more effective on the taut, tight "Golden Girl", with its urgent riff and its heady chorus echoing The Damned. Too often, as on the wannabe epic "Another Way", they muster more bluster than swagger.

Mind you, their inspired version of Thomas Dolby's "Windpower" has its moments, especially when Patrick Murdoch slides a drumstick down the neck of his guitar. Big Linda have a big sound, but they need to rein it in once in a while.

Pierre Perrone

Big Linda tour to 12 December (www.biglinda.co.uk); Crowded House tour to 11 December (www.crowdedhouse.com)

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