So, just how good were Kasabian? In truth, despite their modest claim to be “a fucking fantastic live band” their Brighton Centre gig didn’t live up to the hyperbole that surrounds their live shows. Indeed, it fell some way short of the last time they played the same venue three years ago. That gig will live long in the memory, but this time they weren’t nearly as impressive.
Since their last appearance in Brighton, the band’s ascendence to stardom has been stellar. Having reach a career apogee headlining Glastonbury this summer, they’ve been on the road touring relentlessly across Europe, America and Australia and this was one of ten UK gigs. With the year they’ve had, the show should have been a triumph, but despite all the bombast, it felt like a little complacency – or tedium – was beginning to set in. Keeping things exciting, when you’re playing pretty much the same show night after night is never easy.
Theatrically, the star of this show should have been the huge floor to ceiling video screen: impressive in scale, it was similar to what made their last tour so visually memorable. Nowadays of course big LED screens are quite a common sight, so it’s what you do with them that matters more than just having one behind you. Much of the time Kasabian filled theirs with huge words, most of which, like ‘flannel’ and ‘two-er’ appeared to have been picked entirely at random.
Occasionally, the screen was used for live images, but mainly it carried abstract – and not especially enthralling – graphics. It was as if no one could be bothered to do anything interesting with it. It was much the same with the lighting which seemed to consist almost exclusively of frantically flashing white and pink beams.
On the subject of appearance, even the band’s focal point, guitarist Serge Pizzorno, looked less interesting than he usually does. Wearing a white T-shirt bearing the letters ‘oky’ and black track pants, he could have stepped on stage after a run, although bizarrely, he was sporting a foxes tail! Whilst Serge may be many peoples’ embodiment of a charismatic rock n roll star, the same can’t be said for vocalist Tom Meighan. With his beard and naff velvet jacket, tie and white plimsole combo, he could pass for a sartorially challenged university lecturer, rather than a bonafide rocker. And tonight, even his stage presence seemed to be somewhat lacking. So much so that when he exited to let Serge take on lead vocals, his absence was barely noticed.
But they weren’t just a tad disappointing visually, musically they also seemed to have lost a little of their edge. Understandably, the gig was built around the songs from 48:13, an album that continues Kasabian’s journey into experimental electro dance music, but few of the new songs managed to sound as good live as they do on record. Whilst Ian Matthews’ mighty drum sound was impressive, despite the addition of second guitarist Tim Carter, Ben Kealy on keyboards and Gary Alesbrook on trumpet – as well as a string quartet – the overall sound was average at best.
Regardless of such shortcomings, Kasabian had their audience in the palm of their hands. Those standing downstairs were bathed in pink light and rarely stopped bouncing. By the end, most must have been drenched, if not from sweat then by the endless cups of beer that were flying around. At least one hopes that’s what was being thrown.
The one unexpected moment came when Serge launched into a funky rendition of Cameo’s “Word Up”. Along with a superb rendition of ‘Eez-eh’ and their cover of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ it was one of the few real high points in a surprisingly less than spectacular show. There’s no doubting Kasabian can be a brilliant live band. They were scintillating the last time they played Brighton. It wasn’t that they didn’t deliver this time, it was simply that this performance never quite reached those giddy heights.