Kasabian + The Skinner Brothers, o2 Academy, 4th Nov 2021
Kasabian at the o2 Academy
It’s the final night of Kasabian’s first post-Covid comeback tour – a set of dates in relatively intimate venues. This is designed not only to get the band back on the road, but also to test the water for their new-look line-up. If we rewind back to the beginning of the pandemic, Kasabian had just announced a massive homecoming show for 50,000 people in Leicester’s Victoria Park which had sold out in minutes. Along with the cancellation of that, the band had to deal with controversy surrounding frontman Tom Meighan. The furore led to his dismissal. So this version of Kasabian features guitarist, chief songwriter and general rudder of the band Serge Pizzorno taking over lead vocals. What’s more this also saw the addition of The Music’s Rob Harvey on guitars, vocals and electronics.
Any trepidation the audience may feel about the move is almost immediately quashed when Pizzorno takes to the stage with his arms aloft and the bass riff to ‘Club Foot’ signals the start of the show. Vocally, there’s not a massive difference between how Pizzorno and Meighan sound, but it quickly becomes obvious that this is a sleeker, meaner version of the band with Serge stomping between sides of the stage chanting “moshpit, moshpit” ahead of a feisty ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ and encouraging the crowd to bounce frequently.
The set is largely made up of a selection of hits and old favourites and the audience are more than happy to sing along loudly to ‘Underdog’ and ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’, but there’s also a glimpse of the band’s future with new single ‘ALYGATYR’, which runs with the harder electro-rock sound that has earned comparisons with Primal Scream in the past and sees Pizzorno sharing guitar and vocal duties with Harvey. It’s not an instant classic but it’s a brave statement of intent from the band.
A range of styles
There’s an admirable range of styles on show in tonight’s set, from the bass-led glam stomp of ‘Shoot The Runner’ to the heavy metal riffs of ‘Bumblebeee’, and perhaps most tellingly the electro-heavy ‘I.D.’ during which Serge comes down to the barrier and repeats “this is how it is now” – perhaps a defiant statement for anyone who felt the band wouldn’t continue. There are some light moments too – the hip-hop inspired ‘Treat’ ends with Serge sat on the front of the stage singing a chorus of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ followed by a piece of The Music’s ‘The People’ as a nod to Rob’s involvement, and after asking the crowd to sing and bounce along to a triumphant ‘Empire’, Serge notes that “someone was bouncing with their crutches there, that’s amazing!”
‘Switchblade Smiles’ is propelled by the kind of big-beat drum loops and electronics that would make the Prodigy proud. It is a prime example of why Kasabian have always been more than “just an indie band”. A final ‘Vlad The Impaler’ gets everyone dancing before Serge addresses the audience. He says “thanks for sticking with us through all of this and making this tour so amazing”.
Chants of “Sergio! Sergio!” from the crowd lead into an excellent encore with ‘Bless This Acid House’. It’s a reminder that the band have an ear for an anthemic melody as well as their edgy swagger. However, it’s the massive renditions of ‘LSF’ and ‘Fire’ that close the evening with everyone on the same page. The crowd are singing and bouncing safe in the knowledge that Kasabian back in the game after a trying couple of years. Not only that, they might just be in the best shape of their careers to date.
The Skinner Brothers
Support on this tour comes from up-and-coming outfit The Skinner Brothers. The Londoners meld rock’n’roll guitars with a street-savvy attitude that results in a sound reminiscent of Jamie T’s first album. Opener ‘Culture Non-Stop’ is a highlight along with the swagger of recent single ‘Put Me Down As A Maybe’. However, it’s often difficult to get a hold on how well a band translates in a venue like this on a sold-out tour. They get a lukewarm response from the audience. but to my ears they’ve done enough to at pique some interest. They deserve further investigation.
Review: Ian Paget
Photographs: Ian Dunn
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