It’s a mostly 30+ crowd in for the opening night of Nada Surf’s European tour, but old habits die hard, and half the early birds are still sat splayed across the Academy 3’s tacky floor by time Ezra Furman makes an appearance.

He stands alone at 45º to the mic with just an acoustic guitar at his disposal and face-filling sunglasses protecting his bleary eyes after a marathon 13-hour flight from LA. His voice is wild, hyena-like, and will no doubt set off a few Dylan comparisons, but this self-proclaimed “proud amateur” has us in his palms from the off, with an entire portion of punters chewing their gum in time to each flick of his plectrum.

”Doomed Love Affair’ sees a trickle of dry ice seep out behind Ezra, enveloping the stage like the smoking ban never happened, ‘Queen Of Hearts’ gets the chewers bobbing their heads eagerly, while his specs are finally tossed aside for ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Love’, which closes proceedings in sumptuous style. Furman looks genuinely surprised by the glowing ovation as he leaves, but he’s made plenty of new friends tonight.

It’s been over four-and-a-half years since Nada Surf played in Manchester, a fact that Matthew Caws immediately apologises for before setting the ball rolling with ‘Clear Eye Clouded Mind’, the lead track from their new ‘The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy’ album, and one which adheres to their tried-and-tested formula of getting into an instantly hummable chorus in the shortest time possible.

Bassist, Daniel Lorca has a volcano of blonde dreads erupting from his head, and while ‘Killian’s Red’ from 2002’s seminal ‘Let Go’ LP is played, he also has a cig dangling stubbornly from his craggy lips, its ash trail fluttering to the ground as he sings backing vocals. The smoke alarm above the stage agrees not to go off as long as he doesn’t do it again, and it really is as if the smoking ban didn’t happen.

To call the New Yorkers efficient sounds like it’s doing them a disservice, but it’s really not, as few bands come anywhere near them for consistency over the years. That we’re in the Academy 3 rather than one of the bigger rooms suggests that we’re in cruelly under-appreciated territory here, but the quartet (now with added Doug Gillard on guitar) would have an immense greatest hits album should one ever emerge.

Things threaten to get a little leaden towards the end, with shouts for ’96 breakthrough single, ‘Popular’ becoming ever-more irritating, but ‘Hi-Speed Soul’ blows away any cobwebs and we charge towards the finish line via ‘These Bones’ and ‘Looking Through’, the latter’s “Are you dancing?” line being answered positively by one lady who is writhing nearby, arms raising euphorically above her head as though she’s at a funky-house night.

The encore gives drummer, Ira Elliot, the chance to let his inner Animal out of its cage for ‘The Way You Wear Your Head’, ‘Always Love’ passes by with Caws’ left-knee instinctively flexing in time, while ‘Blankest Year’ brings us to a close and sees the frontman get any profanity out of his system, as his “son is coming to the show tomorrow, so we can’t play it…”. He looks bashful as the f-bombs run out of his mouth like industrial slurry and everyone in the audience suddenly starts lactating in his direction. Aaaaaaaaaw.

It’s been a while, but absolutely worth the wait.