Live Music + Gig Reviews

Kasabian @ Somerset House, London

13 July 2007



Once upon at time, not so very long ago in Indie Land, strange posters started appearing and sometimes,also, there were flags. They showed a masked face, hand-drawn (not very competently) and had a vaguely revolutionary feel.

With a little detective work, The Kids discovered that if you followed the flags, they led you to something called The Movement, which was a kind of fan club for a band called Kasabian, who were named after a follower of Charles Manson and whose music sounded very much like the Stone Roses, who all sensible indie kids knew were one of the greatest bands ever.

If you joined The Movement, Kasabian looked after you well. They invited you to secret gigs and made you feel part of their special club, which was all the better for the brilliant, Madchester-homaging music of their debut single Processed Beats and their eponymous first album. Lost in a musical wilderness between old rave (which was then just rave) and the new rave that was yet to come, they were something very, very special.

Until they decided that instead of being the Stone Roses with a secret fan club, they wanted to be Oasis instead. Virtually overnight, Tom Meighan morphed from the saviour of modern music into a potty-mouthed, lager-lout parody of a lost, less talented Gallagher brother. Instead of playing secret gigs in tiny venues to crowds recruited off the internet, Kasabian seemed to have their sights set on concerts in bigger and bigger stadiums. Their second album, Empire, sounded like Oasis with all the good bits taken out, written after too long a night at Yates Wine Lodge.

Sitting on the terrace at Somerset House it’s impossible to shake the feeling that something, somewhere, has gone seriously wrong. This is an uber-middle class venue at an uber-middle class festival, and in half an hour the man who once lambasted Julian Casablancas for being a “posh f**cking skiier” will be playing in the courtyard of the former offices of the Inland Revenue, performing songs that have copied all their best bits from elsewhere while pretending he’s from Manchester circa 1989 rather than a small village in Leicestershire.

But does this necessarily mean the show will not be any good? First signs indicate that arch cynicism is unnecessary. The concert starts with Serge Pizzorno leading in with a guitar solo, reminding us how good Kasabian can be, before Meighan enters, dressed as a Stars In Your Eyes Ian Brown, to swagger through a storming Shoot The Runner which, let’s face it, is fantastic live.

Over the next hour, however, entertaining though their set is, it’s undeniable that what shines is the older material (Processed Beats especially) and the moments when Pizzorno takes the mic for the newer stuff. Sun Rise Light Flies is incredible, British Legion is even better. Conspiracy theorists might wonder if he’s deliberately keeping the best for himself since taking over as the band’s main songwriter, slowly marginalising Meighan by pushing him further and further into an Oasis-aping corner.

Kasabian ARE a great live band. They DO produce great moments. By My Side is brilliant. Me Plus One is a fantastic singalong. Empire is stunning, even thoughit does bring with it a frenzy of bottled water-throwing from the pretend lager louts of the audience. During the encore, The Last Trip is spine-chilling.

But this is stadium rock and it has ventured toofar into fake Oasis territory for a band who once promised so much more. Once, Kasabian were better than this and when it’s all over, can you shake the feeling that, once he goes solo, Pizzorno will be that much better again?

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