Live: Swan Songs. Grandaddy, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire.

It always appeared somewhat conflicting that a placid man who lived and worked according to a crushing sense of realism personally could resemble such a stellar space cadet artistically. Jason Lytle disbanded Grandaddy back in '06 and although crippled by your usual slew of addictions – as well as his notorious antisociability, it was the band's inability to generate a respectable income that led to their eventual demise. Expressed as the most candid of confessions, it can only truly be matched in recent memory by the cynical, money-spun cackles of Black Francis when the Pixies first reconvened in '04. The sight of Vaughan Oliver's Doolittle doodles scrawled across some nearby shoulders, therefore, tell a somewhat prophetic tale on this night of the most unexpected of reformations since and Lytle et al. may themselves be making a few ends meet on this rather succinct jaunt. Billed as a 'brief reunion and couple of shows', they've taken in a headlining berth at last weekend's End Of The Road, rolled in the Euros at Saint-Cloud's Rock en Seine and tonight sold out the Shepherd's Bush Empire, a space our attentive Pilot inventively identifies as a "British venue lasagna". Lytle also dropped in on Eric Pulido's solo showing at The Slaughtered Lamb just last night. Ain't no scrimpin' on a-showin' this week then, that's fo' sho'.

Way back when however, whether soundtracking relatively obscure po-mo Italian romedies or the obtuse apocalyptica of the inordinately preferable 128 Days Later, Grandaddy were and always would be a band never to fully grow into Lytle's immutably acute ear for a thoroughly melancholic mellifluousness. His songwriting oft vague and detached it never flattered to deceive nor disenchant and in the doleful tones of his tumbledown brogue, a naïve contentment was to be derived from the languor; the lethargy; the overriding despondence of his every oeuvre. And it's these enduring masterstrokes by which we long to be lashed, now as we did then.

Their acolytes fuzzily bearded, bloody tall – many topped with trucker caps – and a tad balder than before, we've all aged days; months; years. As has Lytle, his voice at times tonight but a shrivel of its former self. Enrobed in granddad shirts as per, we're all going thataway and this evening ain't no way about the future: they emerge, silhouetted, against an adorably rudimentary sketch of a swan (this being the last night of their whistle-stop UK sojourn it may also be deemed their swan song of sorts) and soundtracked by John Sebastian's Welcome Back. The track itself tinged with more than its fair swab of bluesy sorrow, it perfectly epitomises the mood as we revel in halcyon years of yore, whilst simultaneously we tick away the moments before they again drift up and away into some intangible atmosphere. "Your dreams were your ticket out", Sebastian laments. Regrettably, it'd appear he wasn't quite right in Lytle's case.

"Well the names have all changed since you hung around/ But those dreams have remained and they've turned around/ Who'd have thought they'd lead ya/ Back here where we need ya" continues The Lovin' Spoonful crooner as he dishes out another dollop of swing-limbed, loose-lipped nostalgia and as Grandaddy then hurl themselves into El Caminos In The West as though off-piste madmen tipped over the edge of some vertiginous precipice, holy crap do you denote how vital a band Grandaddy are were.

The sludge-infested, unremittingly discombobulating bob of Now It's On follows, accompanied by a veritable barrage of quintessentially '90s imagery; furtive glances across subway platforms, motocross wipeouts and so on and so forth. Widescreen plottings for world domination even. As farfetched as they ever were within the context of the life of Jason Lytle, he at once evidences his standing as one of a rare breed of said epoch; a luminary capable of carving a remarkably honed melodiousness from spunk and gristle decaying in the gloomiest doldrums of the gut. He's of Gruff Rhys' species; blooded from Wayne Coyne's Vein Of Stars, and to have the captain fallen to earth to enthral is spectacular to a tectonic plate-fracturing degree. The off-kilter doomsday coos of Fare Thee Not Well Mutineer – unfulfilled prognostications of all airports becoming apartments aside – resonate with a timeless pessimism, Lytle's lyrics of the grass always being greener echoing our heedless glorification of all decades past. Visibly, he's still bearing that bloodthirsty, wholly asocial grudge. The Crystal Lake continues to shine like Swarovski chandelier; the grubbiest of discographic gems. The bleary-eyed brevity of Underneath The Weeping Willow cultivates an impression of melancholia incarnate. Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake beguiles like a granular brainfreeze.

Yet whilst great kinetics hiss as they weave through towering speakerstack, there's an inescapable static both onstage and off it, a static only sparked by those bounding arpeggi of an incandescent A.M.180. Aired somewhere around P.M.2147 and indeed distinctly closer to Albarn's beloved Westway than any which Western Freeway, it's devastatingly sonorous and quite unprecedentedly so. The antithesis of Blur's Hyde Park blowout just last month, then. As contorted video footage of Lytle at his keys, a guitar slung low about his crooked neck becomes interspersed with footage of an irate Airedale scrapping it out with a particularly savage tabby, the visual element appears as markedly focal as ever. For if art be an integral part of music – a reality well recognised by the band – then within our contemporary iClimate its value has been brutally cheapened as, conceivably, has music itself. We're therefore missing the point to a point, as is he beside me who questions: "Is that one of their famous ones?" Immensely appealing, it's something of a moment. Lost On Yer Merry Way, conversely, is best considered the torpid afternoon to their A.M.180 and this juxtaposition suggests that they're at their most intoxicating when going for the jugular and, to iterate the segueing Empirestormer that is The Go In The Go-For-It, "the talk, it got so loud."

Lytle himself however avows to not wanting "to talk too much", only sporadically pleading for applause "ballistic" enough to maybe one day coax these retired cadets down from wherever they may have been hiding these past few years. And indubitably there's an open-ended finality to proceedings: where once their tale seemed to have been slammed shut, the tip of a nicotine-stained finger now seems to be wedging its denouement ajar.

Irrespective of what the future may bring, over their fragmented earthly existences past and present Grandaddy have matured into quite reputable elder statesmen of indie and whilst they may not be the most entertaining of individuals (the repeated affirmations of "I'm not havin' a good time" toward the culmination of Summer Here Kids resound alarmingly accurately on the surface) collectively they've become quite something: something overtly special.

The astral murmurs of He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot even elucidate just how well attuned these once estranged spacemen still are and although live it loses itself a little somewhere around the midpoint its sheer emotivity soars, hoisting the show up and over the two-hour mark. Longer than most fullstops, whether this may really be it remains to be seen and indeed heard though one sound conclusion to be drawn at once is that in fleeting reunion, Grandaddy have found some semblance of redemption.