Just after this gig our photographer posted on a well-known social networking site that this performance by Kasabian had restored his faith in the band. I know exactly what he means.
Some commentators have taken it upon themselves to become a bit sniffy about Kasabian in recent times and this has led to the band garnering an unwelcome reputation in some quarters. Too easily dismissed as a lads’ band whose days of real creativity are behind them, they turned up for this warm-up looking and sounding like a band who knew exactly what they were about. Once the crowd got going the band delivered a blistering festival set in a festival atmosphere, but in an indoor venue.
Originally lauded as another in a long line of saviours of Indie Rock, Kasabian have had the audacity to become very popular. Maybe it was the short-lived aping of Oasis or the ubiquity of Empire and Fire as background music from everything from Glastonbury to Premier League Football but this has not settled well with some who regarded their eponymous debut album as a ground-breaking masterpiece and the follow up Empire as a betrayal, in spite of popular acclaim and NME Best Live Act awards.
Thankfully there are still some areas of popular music where the opinions of the fans win out over the talking heads and the third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum seemed to bring the Journos back on side, as the album was short-listed for the Mercury Prize, reaching number one in the album charts. The band have always enjoyed a large and vociferous following, and benefit from a hard core of followers from Leicester many of whom had made the journey up the M6 for the occasion judging from the number of Foxes badges on shirts in evidence and the convoy heading south after the gig!
The crowd were a bit subdued though, perhaps due to supporting act Penguins, who proved to be yet another Ting Tings tribute band with overwhelming backing track, indistinct guitar and drowned out vocal. I’m sure there were a few tunes in there but they didn’t come out and the audience had enough by the end cheering the announcement of their final song. It was unfortunate but at least the Penguin mask was entertaining.
All of this meant that vocalist Tom Meighan, now minus the flowing locks, had to work a bit to whip up the crowd in spite of the thunderous welcome Kasabian received as they took to the stage. Club Foot and Where Did All The Love Go? got them singing along but if wasn’t until Shoot The Runner that the beer and bodies went flying.
Velociraptor proved to be the only new song in the main set with it’s nursery rhyme chorus, and Tom Meighan walked away with a cuddly green dinosaur for his trouble, thrown by someone who obviously doesn’t know what a velociraptor was!
From then on it was fairly constant mayhem, predictably during Empire but also for Thick As Thieves; “this is for all those here from Leicester”. Fast Fuse went all a bit Dick Dale merging into Misirlou, which seemed a bit corny but the crowd didn’t mind. What was surprising was how prominent the guitars of Sergio Pizzorno and Jay Mehler were, even in older songs like I.D. and L.S.F.giving them a rockier feel than the recorded versions. The crowd were raucous throughout and the band seemed genuinely pleased, if not a bit surprised, at the reception they received.
Switchblade Smiles opened the encore and gave everyone chance to catch their breath before Stuntman morphed into Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and then the obligatory Fire. This went down so well that the band reprised the whole thing leaving the crowd even more beer-soaked and bruised.
It’s easy to be sniffy about their popularity but there is a huge amount of craft in what they do. Whereas before there was just swagger there is a lot more genuine presence now and a connection with the crowd, with Tom Meighan proving a lot more expressive and even theatrical at times. If you examine the case for the prosecution then Kasabian have evolved into Oasis copyists and populist purveyors of football terrace anthems. But I think the case for the defence, that there is much, much more to them wins out.
Where Did All The Love Go?
Shoot The Runner
Thick As Thieves
Vlad The Impaler
Stuntman /I Feel Love
Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Steve Gerrard