HE’S AGED well. In the six years since the Auteurs first waltzed into the fray, Luke Haines seems to have grown into his scowling, petulant features. He might not canter about the stage on a motorised potty, a la Robbie, but his onstage demeanour — terse, brusque, gleefully focused — characterises a more brutally satisfying brand of pop performance.
Smoothly deflecting a never-ceasing barrage of requests from the floor with a determined, “We have a setlist”, Haines and his band beat out a series of melodic, martial tattoos on the corpse of a decaying Britain. Guitar strung around his body, striking out brittle chords and razor-sharp lyrics, he resembles a cross between a young Elvis Costello and a crazed serial killer, multiplying the zeal and slash of both.
The set draws equally from the band’s past, and their recent, disturbed How I Learnt To Love The Bootboys opus. The likes of ‘The Rubettes’ and ‘…Bootboys’ are literate, turbulent, but (and this is the genius stroke) always, always resonant.
Playing with the spectres of a thousand pop memories on a stripped-down, closing ‘Future Generation’, Haines reveals himself as one of the ’90s’ finest songwriters, although one whose vision is too bitter for widespread consumption. You can only hope the last laugh will still be his.
© Stevie Chick, New Musical Express, 6 November 1999