Their 90-minute set offers old favourites such as ‘TV Show (Hang the Police)’ alongside newer, electronic-influenced songs such as ‘Viva Murder’. They swing between moments of straight-up post-punk and all-out trance, sending the crowd into equal states of rapture along the way, with the area in front of the stage a mix of mosh pit and dance floor.
A 15-minute version of the new album’s pulsing lead single ‘AT MOS PHERE’ is the penultimate song of the night, and one of the band’s most out-and-out electronic numbers. It’s been a Re-TROS live staple for the past five years and
John Lydon enthusiastically played a version of
it on his BBC 6 Music show back in 2013, but when it was released as an album appetiser in February this year, it led some to declare that the band had jettisoned their post-punk moorings.
‘We knew people would react like that,’ smiles Hua. ‘Liu Min said, “let’s put out ‘AT MOS PHERE’ and let people talk about us going electronic. Then we’ll put out ‘Pigs’ and everyone will say, ‘Oh wait, now they’re like this.’” We like it when it’s not so easy for people to really know us, to judge us.
We’ve got two songs that we’re weighing up to be
the next track that we release; they’re both very different to each other and
completely different to the first two you’ve heard.’
‘Pigs in the River’ certainly
sounds more like the Re-TROS of old. ‘I don’t think of what we’re doing now as
electronic music,’ says Hua. ‘We’re using electronic methods, but the feeling,
the sound is still rock – it’s more like electrified rather than electronic.
The thing we’ve been working with a lot and which has had the biggest impact on
us in the last few years is electronic music’s idea of loops; so we have a
basic loop and then we overdub, we build on it.
'After Cut Off! we felt we didn’t want to make pure post-punk any more; we wanted to bring our sound from the ’70s and ’80s into the 2000s. Of course there’ll be some people who think “Re-TROS have changed, they’re just chasing what’s fashionable” and I can understand them feeling that way. But we don’t always want to be on the same road.’
Clearly delighting in confounding expectations, the band are already plotting what Hua calls ‘the next stage’ of Re-TROS. ‘We’re thinking about what our direction will be
after this; we like each album to be different. Usually I come up with the
crude bones of a song and then we work out what kind of clothes will go on this
part, what colour trousers will go on that part, what kind of shoes, until it’s
a beautiful person,’ he says. 'We haven’t entirely decided yet, but right now we have a lot of sounds and quite complicated structures; I think it’ll be a simpler approach after this.’
Though of course, this being Re-TROS, fans know not to hold their breath. ‘Maybe it’ll be another eight years until the next record,’ says Hua with a mischievous smirk. ‘Maybe.’