As soon as we boarded the train to Birmingham International and the LG arena, we were immediately immersed in hordes of drunk people chanting “Eez-eh! Eez-eh!”, which was to become a theme throughout the rest of the night. Following the snaking herd of Kasabian fans, we finally made it to the colossal arena, where I foolishly queued for 10 minutes to buy a £4.20 pint – madness!
5 piece indie-rock band The Maccabees [7/10] did the honours of kicking off the show with an 11 track set list. It comprised of a range of songs across all 3 albums, as well as treating the crowd to a sneaky insight of their new upcoming album by performing 3 new songs – ‘WW1 Portraits’, ‘Marks to Prove It’ and ‘Spit It Out’. Bearing in mind it was probably the first time most people had heard the songs, there was a lack of any real sense of engagement from the crowd, who judging by their t-shirts were clearly all here to see Kasabian. However the band still played through them in their usual energetic and resonant style, which was awarded by a well-deserved cheer from the crowd. They also pulled out some great crowd pleasers such as ‘Love You Better’ and ‘Pelican’, which in this case the fans did sing enthusiastically to, and a few lighters even came out in the air.
Unfortunately at times the songs sounded too similar played back to back, which isn’t favourable as a support group. However this is a band which has been around for many years now and have played to all sorts of crowds, so at least you could tell they were having fun doing so, which is always an important aspect of a live performance.
During the interlude between the support and the headline, a glaringly pink countdown clock began ticking its way down to the final act, and as the last few minutes ticked away, the audience began randomly screaming in anticipation. As the final pair of digits became zeros, Serge Pizzorno and Tom Meighan stepped out of the shadows on either side of the stage. Each illuminated by a soft mauve spotlight, they acoustically dueted the opening lines of ‘bumblebeee’ before the rest of the band crashed in with a frankly staggering cacophony of sound. While latest album 48:13 had a lot of flaws, this song has instantly become a Kasabian classic – the perfect blend of repetitive melodies, heavy guitars and yellable crowd chants. Almost breathlessly, the band then moved on to smash hit ‘Shoot the Runner’; which was preceded with a teasing rock n’ roll version of Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’, and ‘Underdog’ – an unbelievably strong start to their show.
One of the best things about Kasabian is the sheer variety of their back catalogue; as a band they have been consistent in throwing out what is expected of them, and releasing albums which are completely unrivalled in their brilliance/weirdness. The groovy performance of ‘Where Did All the Love Go?’ from psychedelic album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is a perfect example of this. During this song, the backdrop changed to the word “FLANNEL” in 2 metre high pink letters, and the crowd suddenly noticed that as well as skeleton trousers, Serge was also sporting a large furry tail. I briefly became convinced I was hallucinating.
An element that really added some musical depth was the four woman strong string section, which gave a dreamlike quality to many of the more instrumental songs such as ‘clouds’, although this song’s somewhat cheesy and nonsensical lyrics (“Where do you go, When your arms are ‘neath the rainbow?” – I’m looking at you) made this the weakest part of an otherwise incredible set. However, the best part of ‘clouds’ is its chirpy electronic outro that brilliantly segues into ‘eez-eh’. As expected, virtually every person in the huge LG arena began bouncing erratically like pogo-ing was back in style. While many people critique this track for its simplistic and repetitive lyrics, you can easily forgive this due to the sheer catchiness of the song – even if you haven’t heard it, it’s impossible to not at the very least tap your toes. As a contrast, they then played ‘Cutt Off’, a spooky, spacey, kind of track from their 2004 debut album – and the equally wild reception proved that Kasabian are still producing massive hits a decade later.
The decision to introduce ‘Re-wired’ with Cameo’s ‘Word Up!’ was a stroke of genius, and while ‘Treat’ is generally an uninspiring song, the extended instrumental was really something to behold, and made me reconsider the track in a new light. During it, a magnificent light show sent green laser beams criss-crossing the arena, which turned the stage into a cage of weird fractal shapes, with Serge prowling around the edges like a strange nocturnal beast. The crowd could barely keep up with Kasabian’s energy as the set closed with the triple whammy of ‘Switchblade Smiles’, ‘Empire’ and ‘Fire’.
For the encore, the four violinists began playing softly under a spotlight, and then the beat of ‘stevie’ came in, and so the crowd once again went mental screaming out the gleefully laddish chorus. After a nostalgic cover of Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Praise You’, Kasabian closed with the classic ‘LSF’, with waves of overlapping harmonies as the crowd sang back the wordless melody, a remarkably serene end to a wild show. A dazed crowd shuffled out of the arena, still chanting “Eez-eh! Eez-eh!” as they boarded the train home.
The grand concepts behind their last album are nebulous at best, and “Let’s stick boring words up on a great big screen so people think we’re really deep” is probably what a lot of people got from Kasabian’s stage show. But frankly, the theatrics and clichés done on a massive scale are enjoyably reminiscent of Spinal Tap, and who honestly cares when the music is this good?