Kasabian kick off their show just minutes after the final whistle of their beloved hometown team Leicester City’s battling defeat in the European Champions League ‒ but they still put on a winning performance at O2 Forum Kentish Town. The Leicester lads wear their hearts on their sleeves, as can be seen from the club’s royal blue shirts with the band’s name emblazoned on them at the merchandise stall. Last May Kasabian headlined a gig at the King Power Stadium to celebrate the Foxes winning the Premier League, and a football stadium would seem to be their natural home. At times the boisterous atmosphere inside the Forum felt as much like a football match as a rock concert.
This was the first of three consecutive sold-out nights at the 2,000-plus-capacity venue. For a band who have previously filled its fair share of arenas, stadiums and festivals, this is relatively small beer. But it continues an intimate tour for a band that like to get up, close and personal with their fans, ahead of the release of their sixth album, For Crying Out Loud, at the end of the month. Strangely, though, only three of its twelve tracks are played – and all of those already in the public domain – so the gig was much more of a retrospective than unveiling new material. And it’s a pretty impressive back catalogue for a band that’s now been going for 20 years.
Critics may mock Kasabian for their bombastic arrogance, as purveyors of lad rock big on swagger and short on subtlety, but the band are more varied than they get credit for, mixing in electronic dance beats with the heavy guitar riffs. They owe a lot to the likes of Happy Mondays and Oasis, as Madchester meets Britpop, but their live showmanship once again delivers the goods to adoring fans.
Unusually for a rock band there are really two front men (who are also childhood friends) interacting with the audience. The charismatic lead singer Tom Meighan struts around like a sunglass-wearing cock of the roost, in tandem with the no less dynamic lead guitarist Sergio Pizzorno (who also acts as second singer, as well as occasionally playing synths, not to mention being the main songwriter). They are backed by bassist Chris Edwards and drummer Ian Matthews providing solid grooves. And here the regular band are complemented by a second guitarist and a keyboardist, plus for some songs a female string quartet and a trumpet player no less.
The 90-minute, football-match-long show starts with a punchy performance of new song Comeback Kid (featured on the FIFA 17 video game), boasting a trademark soaring chorus – and the high energy rarely drops afterwards. All albums are represented, from early favourites like the trip-hop-influenced L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever) and pounding distortions of Club Foot, glam-stomp Shoot The Runner and rocktronic Empire, to the psych rock of Underdog, the electrifying Re-Wired and EDM-style Eez-Eh. The new album’s first single, You’re In Love With A Psycho, makes an upbeat, melodic impact, while their latest rock anthem Bless This Acid House also impresses.
The only time really when the relentless drive slows down is for Pizzorno’s solo acoustic guitar performance of the dreamily off-kilter La Fée Verte (which he describes as a break from a “full-on set”), when he does a walkabout in the crowd.
The encores include a pulsating account of Vlad The Impaler, with Pizzorno ending up playing guitar flat on his back on stage, and Meighan climbing on top of him in ironically raunchy fashion. And for the final song, Fire, Pizzorno urges everybody to get down before springing up for the rousing chorus – an incendiary end to the evening with everybody chanting and swaying as if on old-style football terraces.