Sitting in the cavernous NIA, my overriding feeling was: “Do the Kaiser Chiefs deserve to play a venue as big as this?” Steadily declining critical acclaim and suspicions of ‘one-trick pony’ status suggest not, but judging by the rapidly filling floor and excited chatter, perhaps they do. It would be up to the Leeds fivesome to prove me wrong and rock the hordes of fans streaming into the room.
First support Esser did his best to win over the arriving masses in what for many, including myself, would be a first look at the quiff-toting newcomer. Wearing a chain-strewn outfit, Esser bounced about the stage with gusto, occasionally thumping a drum along to the electro beats and bleeps that weaved in and out of his sample-laden indie-pop. His tuneful, colloquial delivery gave Esser a very accessible, radio-friendly edge, but there was enough variation and eclecticism to provoke interest beyond the, sometimes overly, simplistic lyrical content. Overall, Esser was probably a little too candyfloss-light for this crowd, but he managed to get at least a small section of the growing audience on his side.
Next it was the turn of Floridian five-piece Black Kids to build on their stellar last year-or-so and win some new followers in the near-filled arena. The pink and blue neon set lights provided an ideal backdrop as the ‘Kids launched into debut album Partie Traumatic’s opener ‘Hit the Heartbrakes’. Singer-guitarist Reggie Youngblood set the tone immediately with his emotive Jacksonville drawl, which at times resembled the tortured whine of The Cure’s Robert Smith. The standout track tonight, however, was ‘Hurricane Jane’ as the band’s calls for dancing provoked a swathe of bopping, jumping and clapping in the partisan crowd. Ending on hit-single ‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You’, Reggie completed his vocal transformation into Robert Smith, and the Black Kids left having gained more than a few new fans.
As the lights fell for the headline act, a roar erupted and the Kaiser Chiefs made their way through their elaborate set, bedecked in lights, drapes, screens and a raised platform for drummer, songwriter and wannabe lead-singer, Nick Hodgson. As the ‘Chiefs started up ‘Spanish Metal’, actual singer Ricky Wilson played cheerleader, diving around with the energy of an excited puppy, revving up the crowd for the night ahead. But it was second song, fan-favourite ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ that got the whole crowd in the air, matching Ricky’s pogoing and arm thrusting obediently, chanting like a football terrace in a derby. But then the first occurrence of the dreaded, and frankly moronic, building screams of “ooooooooh!” which seem to haunt all Kaiser Chiefs singles emerged.
Next was ‘Everything is Average Nowadays’, which saw Ricky jump from the stage and into the crowd like a striker scoring a last-minute winner, followed by ‘Heat Dies Down’, which never really took off in comparison. Resorting to some Mexican wave orchestrating, Ricky pushed the crowd through newer offering ‘You Want History’ until he could maintain control again with huge single ‘Ruby’ which reignited the audience, now bathed in red light, into spontaneous jumping and opened up a small mosh-pit at the front.
‘Na Na Na Na Naa’ from debut album Employment was self-explanatory and reminded me of why this band could often rub people up the wrong way. Another reminder was the introduction of the keyboardist, who with a name like Peanut in pork-pie hat is only a scotch egg away from being a picnic. ‘Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning)’ was one of the better new offerings as the John Lennon-alike guitarist Whitey got to show off some Johnny Marr-alike delay-drenched plank spanking.
Lead single from last album Off With Their Heads, ‘Never Miss a Beat’ was a highlight, bringing the energy back into the room after a couple of uninspiring tunes and got the reception it deserved. This was timely, as next was the Kaisers’ most potent weapon and most energetic creation so far ‘I Predict a Riot’, which received a predictably riotous reception of chanting, jumping and singing-along from the baying mob. Ricky milked it for all it was worth, climbing the scaffolding before leaping into the chorus for a final time. Suitably, Kaiser Chiefs finished with ‘The Angry Mob’, throughout which the crowd uniformly and ironically followed Ricky Wilson’s every word with cult-like reverence.
An encore of ‘Tomato in the Rain’ and the thrashier ‘Saturday Night’ built up to long-time favourite ‘Oh My God’ which ended with the crowd taking over vocal duties for an extended version which culminated in the crushing chorus. Although it seems with every album we love them less and less, Kaiser Chiefs still have plenty of live appeal for many keen on jumping and shouting along to big, memorable choruses.
Words: Ian Ravenscroft
Black Kids Set
1. Hit the Heartbrakes
2. Listen To Your Body Tonight
3. Partie Traumatic
4. I Wanna Be Your Limosine
5. Hurricane Jane
6. Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)
7. I’m Making Eyes at You
8. I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You
Kaiser Chiefs Set
1. Spanish Metal
2. Everyday I Love You Less and Less
3. Everything is Average Nowadays
4. Heat Dies Down
5. You Want History
7. Good Days Bad Days
8. Na Na Na Na Naa
9. Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning)
10. Like It Too Much
11. Modern Way
12. Half the Truth
13. Never Miss a Beat
14. I Predict a Riot
15. Take My Temperature
16. The Angry Mob
17. Tomato in the Rain
19. Oh My God
Review- Ian Ravenscroft
Photos – Lee Allen