Hard-Fi, Electric Ballroom, London

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The Independent Culture

But it was not all roses. The Staines band had to cancel their Glastonbury victory parade because Richard Archer's mother was seriously ill. Hundreds were waiting in a sodden West Country tent to see them. Two weeks later they played a one-off gig at Neighbourhood in west London. Everything that had happened over two months poured out of them on a memorable night.

How to top that? Wednesday's gig at Camden's Electric Ballroom was Hard-Fi's first London gig since their North American tour, and they have come back tighter. Kai Stephens's bass-playing drives the band with ferocity and skill. There is no faulting their precision. But a tough schedule has taken its toll on Archer, who struggles on the high notes and sounds cracked on the low. With his spasmodic, violent gestures and natural crowd rapport, he is always watchable, but needs a rest.

The evening starts with an energetic, catchy "Middle Eastern Holiday" - about dying too young in Iraq - followed by "Got No Reason" and the spiky, off-centre "Unnecessary Trouble". Both Archer and the crowd are into their stride. "Sing up, you fuckers," he bawls, and they love it.

Two crowd favourites emerge: the break-up song "Better Do Better"and the home-town anthem "Tied up too Tight". Archer comes over all Thom Yorke; sound effects kick in and he writhes in pain, then pulls off his jacket to reveal a "Freedom for Staines" T-shirt. "Who here's from Staines?" he hollers.

Next up is the band's trademark cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army", and their best-known singles, "Hard to Beat" and "Cash Machine". The encore includes a jagged rendition of the Heathrow song "Move On Now" and the rousing "Stars of CCTV" and "Living for the Weekend".

This is a good band with a stunning debut, but they need a new album. They have lived with these songs since they recorded them in a disused cab office in October 2004. "This time last year," reminisces Archer, "we were playing the Water Rats. Now look at you lot." This time next year we will either be looking at superstars or also-rans.