The rock'n'roll virus is spreading again. The three guitar bands on tonight's bill are leading lights in yet another revitalising of a music that has been written off as creatively exhausted almost since it began, but which every new generation seizes on again as their own. The current wave has most to do with the now badly holed "good ship Albion", The Libertines' mythic home, a poetic, bohemian, youthful British ideal which was also familiar with drunkenness, fighting and shabby sex.
The Libertines' east-London scene also brought rock back closer to its listeners than even punk had, bringing fans in to their own homes. The fervent, grass-roots fanaticism which has seen the Arctic Monkeys bypass corporate channels to top the charts began right there. The re-emergence of singles as more vital and cogent dispatches than albums, and of lyrics which urgently celebrate ordinary experience, are also crucial. As with the intellectual sharpness and inviting sense of odd private worlds that the best new bands suggest, Franz Ferdinand's post-punk aesthetic has been a pivot. But the wild scenes tonight destroy sneers of revivalism. For the packed crowd in Brixton, this music is happening to them now.
Wakefield's The Cribs arrive at 7.30pm to an already filling hall. Veterans of the Libertines' "London's burning" scene and a pensionable two albums into their career, they hold fast to the Libs' amateur aesthetic.
Although their lyrics deride small-minded indie scenesters, the compromises of pop success don't seem for them. Their notorious crowd-surfing excesses are put on hold in this intimidatingly large venue, as they settle for colliding into each other, and scraping feeding-back guitars behind their head in ritual Hendrix tributes.
Newcastle's Maximo Park are where the thrills really begin. The singer Paul Smith is a loose-limbed, floppy frontman, leading the band in karate chops and spindly leaps. There is something naturally bent out of shape about the band, making them magnets for the alienated. "I am young and in lust/ Every sentence has its cost," Smith sings on "The Coast is Always Changing", in his hardest Geordie accent. The twisting sexual agony and threat of the lyrics is matched by interwoven tension and release in the music, while Smith holds his arms out, beseeching and inviting.
For "I Want You to Stay", he falls theatrically back as the first hurled beer explodes at his feet, and strobe-lights kick in, while the organist plays Stax soul, and offbeat rhythms don't let anything settle. The lyrics describe provincial and domestic fear and daring, failed sexual fumbles and drunken dumbness. By the closing blast of singles, the songs have become loving football chants, anthems for outsiders.
Kaiser Chiefs' entrance is possibly the finest I've seen, following a hilarious anti-London film with a thunderous burst of Dire Straits' " Money for Nothing". Blazered before stripping to his waistcoat, the singer Ricky Wilson is every inch the star. On "Modern Way", rows of mobile phones reach out to him as he stretches its chorus, ruthlessly stoking the response. "You Can Have It All" sees him pluck a girl from the crowd, clasping himself to her bosom as she cringes in half-mortified delight. Now is Kaiser Chiefs' finest moment, and Wilson is squeezing it a little too hungrily. Compared with Maximo Park, the feelings the band actually put across are quite ordinary. On the great "I Predict a Riot", the original sense of fearful voyeurism is replaced by a real sense of violent abandon in the crowd. This is the moment this music becomes pop, for better and for worse.
The Rock'n'Roll Riot Tour ends at Glasgow Carling Academy on 29 and 30 OctoberReuse content