Live Music + Gig Reviews

Kasabian + Guillemots (with the BBCCO) @ Roundhouse, London

28 October 2006

Kasabian: No reason, plenty of treason.“He’s classically trained you know. He’s been learning music since he was three-and-a-half.”

Fyfe Dangerfield’s parents are sitting next to me and beaming at the prospect of their son’s imminent appearance.

And so they should. 2006 has been good to the Guillemots. Very good. A critically acclaimed Mercury-nominated album, matched by a mercurial rise, has elevated them from the pot holes of this country to two sold out nights at the Astoria next week.

There is however, the small matter of a live nationwide broadcast this evening in the stunning surroundings of the Roundhouse for the most eyebrow raising night of the Electric Proms, where indie meets classical.

Backed by the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra, the scene was set for the Guillemots to channel their superb debut Through The Windowpane in the glory it so deserves.

The fragile opening of Little Bear signified this, as the splendour of Dangerfield and the BBCCO expanded from the core of the Roundhouse. You could really feel the power of the orchestra as it breathed through the venue.

By the third song, Rising Tide, many of the crowd had lost interest and conversation carried everywhere horrendously. It wasn’t as if the talkers weren’t aware of it. It was shameful and made it a struggle to both hear and keep focus. Though it wasn’t just rude Kasabian fans who stained the set. The sound was noticeably muted and bombed around for anything electric. Quite how the sound engineers failed to get to grips with the Roundhouse’s acoustics four nights into the festival beggared belief.

The Guillemots soldiered on, donning animal masks for an operatic (and slightly troubling) segment on Bad Boyfriend. “That one’s going to be the next single,” quipped Dangerfield. It was too little, too quick. Not even a closing salvo of Trains To Brazil and Sao Paulo could mask that however hard the Guillemots tried – and they did – they were doing an eight song set with their hands tied.

Handed the keys to the garage, Kasabian’s chosen vehicle and their ability to step it up a gear for the evening was the subject of much talk amongst the press corps. Like them or not, they can bang out a tune or two with their meld of baggy and Evil Heat-era Primals.

It was not to be.

Was there much point in the BBCCO being here when all they did was fill in the studio string parts already present on Empire and a few others? Was there much point in setting up a second drum kit for Zak Starkey other than to boast they’re mates with Oasis?

The acoustics hardly improved, with Chris Edwards and Ian Martin drowning out anything and everything, even Serge Pizzorno. The indie monkey Tom Meighan continues to ape is so 90s, and excruciatingly self-degrading. More so, because you find it in indie clubs up and down the land every Friday night. Ian Brown is iconic and Liam Gallagher still has presence. The hybrid Meighan is trying to put out has neither.

No attempt was made to experiment or embrace the BBCCO and push Kasabian’s sound beyond its lairy leanings in the way Metallica took to Michael Kamen’s San Francisco Symphony Orchestra on S&M. Instead of taking the Ferrari through country lanes, Kasabian have driven across a farmer’s crops like they’re riding a dirt bike, doing nothing but enhance their forte for lad rock.

The nail in the coffin was hammered home from the very beginning, with Zane Lowe’s predictable rouse that we were “going to have a night we would never forget.”

Tom Meighan’s verbiage was even better: “This is history we are making right now, me and you,” before adding: “You lot are fucking empire,” plus a quaint: “Come on you fuckers!” He waved a Union Jack about too.

Spare me.

Maybe things would have been different. Well they could have. I could have been on my feet like most of the venue. But only if I had knocked back ten pints, done two lines, danced like a bear and topped it off with a kebab.

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