Just ten months after they played Concorde 2, the Kaisers were back in Brighton. Their not-so-secret gig was one of the highlights of last year’s The Great Escape. This time though, they chose the more familiar surroundings of the Brighton Centre’s expansive stage. However, this was one of those occasions when bigger wasn’t necessarily better.
Despite employing a profusion of visual ideas, the show was nowhere near as memorable as their ‘stripped back’ performance at C2. That said, it wasn’t for lack of trying. In fact, if anything, they tried too hard. For all chief Kaiser Ricky Wilson’s efforts, nothing they did went close to matching the visceral excitement they delivered at TGE.
At their live shows, there’s no doubt whatsoever that this is Ricky’s band, he’s as much the frontman as they seem content to be his backing band. As a judge on The Voice, his celebrity has risen to the point that his name is now better known than the band’s and he now has over twice as many followers on Twitter than they do. At one point during the evening he was almost like a contestant on that show singing on an otherwise empty stage at the back of the auditorium. With everyone turned towards him, it was left to the rest of the Kaisers to keep the music going whilst the audience had their backs to them. It was an odd sight that just served to emphasis the gulf between the musicians and their frontman.
It was no surprise then that all eyes were on Ricky – and there were also a considerable number of cameras on him too. Several tracked his every move onstage, one swung down from the rig above him and there was even another stuck on the end of his microphone.
Visually, the show had a theme. Somewhat curiously, it was based around dazzle ship graphics. It was neither original, or it seemed, especially relevant. It meant monochromatic dazzle camo appeared on everything from Ricky’s T-shirt, to the guitars, keyboards and drums. It even covered the stage floor, something we could appreciate courtesy of that suspended camera. All n all, it seemed to have been chosen for no other reason than someone liked the graphic and thought it would look good.
The lighting rig also looked like someone’s intention was “let’s dazzle ‘em with lights”. But whilst the rig was impressive, for much of the time, the lighting itself wasn’t anything to write home about. The staging also included five screens behind the band with two more to the side. They carried no shortage of visual imagery, but in truth little that was that impressive. The title of one of the Kaiser’s own songs – the third in their 20-song set – seemed to sum up the result: ‘Everything Is Average Nowadays’
That said, the Kaisers do have an impressive back catalogue of crowd-pleasers, many like ‘Ruby Ruby Ruby’ ‘I Predict A Riot’ and ‘Oh My God’ seemingly designed for lung-busting sing-a-longs. Sadly, few of the newer tunes compare so favourably with those early anthems. The new album is a case in point, where every track sounds oh-so-similar to something we’ve heard them do better before.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad gig, it really wasn’t. It was just a predictably professional performance by a band that at times seemed to be trying too hard to impress. Rather than keeping things simple as they did so well at Concorde 2, in an attempt to dazzle the audience they relied too heavily on theatrical gimmicks. Now I’m not advocating doing away with all the pizzazz, just that any theatrics should enhance the performance, not overshadow it.
Indeed, so eager were they to please, that without a Brighton song in their repertoire they even offered up a cover of The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ something they first played during the closing ceremony of the London Olympics (although it turned out they also played it every night of their 11-date of UK tour.)
Unlike the lyrics on ‘Everything Is Average Nowadays’ the Kaiser’s aren’t in danger of “going down the pan” just yet. Neither, to quote another of their songs, are they ‘Dead Or In Serious Trouble’ but they’d do well to re-assess their live show and realise that, all too often, less is usually more.
The Kaiser Chiefs’ latest album ‘Education, Education, Education and War’ is out now