As we swarmed into the dank, sweltering relic of an uncaring past that is the Festival Hall in search of a queue to join for beer, Londoners The Vaccines appeared. The band arrive on the back of their ultra hyped debut album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? and illustrious high profile exposure slots lead by singer/guitarist Justin Young.
Crashing through their hastily put together back catalogue of all things the same, anyone would be easily convinced that it was The Rifles or The Futureheads who’d made the long, arduous journey to the big brown land. This isn’t the sort of reward deserved of the diligent sticky masses cramming into a tired boxing stadium on a hot night. With Young’s voice a constant generic drawl, it’s apparent that now 10 years on from The Strokes’ Is This It moving the goals the chugging sound has been pulled apart and bedded with all manor of pop, punk, beat and limping hardcore grinds.
However, all was not to be lost – cracking slow tempo single “Wetsuit” shifted gears mid set to unearth a willing sing-a-long crowd.
After a long and smelly intermission, under the hushed lighting Leicester lads Kasabian snuck onto the stage to a welcome swell of sweaty hand claps. Regular visitors to these shores, the band have enjoyed a strong support right back to their impressive Big Day Out performances in 2007, garnering them higher billing on each subsequent tour. Four albums of eclectic mixes of fresh interpretations and new grooves, expectations of a stellar set were held by all.
Launching into the beats and wails “Days Are Forgotten” plucked from of 2011’s Velociraptor! before the stomping lines of “Shoot The Runner” took hold. Instantly, the leading feed between singer Tom Meighan and lanky commander-in-chief Serg Pizzorno threw much needed swagger across the scene. Pizzorno stalked back and forth from his microphone like a spindly demon who’d arrived to maintain the nerve under lights while Meighan took residence on the edge of the stage, mic in hand.
It wasn’t long until the glorious psychedelic “Underdog” from the brilliant but oft-misunderstood 2008 album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum bellowed from the strains of Pizzorno’s Gibson. Swirls of purple floral lighting drenched the now bouncing floor of the back block hollow that is the Festival Hall as the vocal trading morphed into the defiant call to arms with Meighan finding fine voice. Flowing quickly from track to track as if there was a free bar elsewhere, the fittingly themed “Where Did All The Love Go?” found the Meighan-lead unwitting lyric of ‘Never took a punch in the ribcage, honey…’ bursting through while water tight rhythms stemming from Chris Edwards’ bass and the snapping drum of Ian Matthews drove the set on.
Meanwhile, with all the fine songwriting carried through well reigned powers, Kasabian are a true modern musical paradox. Their album-life is of two clear visions starting off with a self titled debut in 2004 through 2006’s Empire where the difference were minimal sans a few horn wig outs on the latter before the 2nd act became a dark, mysterious venture into the unknown. On show, these stark contrasts of output are thrown bare to equal cheers from a room reeking of stale dim-sims and socks.
At times, Pizzorno is found in ultra-Ray Davies mode, serenading the crowd with the dreamy strums of “Le Fée Verte” before reverting back to the storming sounds of “Empire” which brought them such rapid following. Leaning heavily on their later outputs through the set, the band deliver on call each time but you can’t help but wonder – what drives them to be so different from themselves?
After leading the crowd through a gentle reprise of “L.S.F”, Pizzorno and co. left the stage to the deep drones of a football terrace spreading up the sing-a-long until they themselves couldn’t keep up – you can’t avoid being caught up in that. Leicester City F.C. kits could have been dropped in without an eye turned as the band departed for the traditional gig-end game of hide and seek.
On re-emergence, there were still several tracks which would have been normally expected (“The Doberman” to name one) as part of any Kasabian show. However, it seems there’s a greater mood within the band to press on and embrace all that is new including that of their own as the joker in the pack “Vlad The Impaler” was brought to life. This is a track that doesn’t do itself justice on record where it’s a clever lyric to a shallow fuzzed out beat. Here, and stages worldwide, it becomes a dark, relentless, bouncing psychedelic dirg stretched out to suit with Meighan whipping the near masses into a frenzy.
Closing is the cheery, upbeat “Fire” and a chorus of ooos and aaaahs to send us all out into the balmy night. While reinvention has become a reoccurrence with this great, ground breaking band we’re left feeling there was better material on the shelf. But, that’s the beast that is Kasabian – they can’t be copied and they can’t be deterred. I can’t wait till they’re back.
– Ciarán Wilcox