It’s a truth universally known in the world of support acts that opening a gig with new material is a massive no-no. The Maccabees must have confidence in spades: despite a thin and widely indifferent audience, they open one of their first gigs in two years by tearing through a track that is indebted to every one of their albums all at once – the emotion of Given To The Wild, the exuberance of Colour It In and the wild guitar work of Wall of Arms. Looking suitably pleased to be back on stage, the likes of ‘Feel To Follow’ and ‘Precious Time’ sound remarkably fresh for their time away, with Orlando Weeks dedicating ‘First Love’ to the recently closed Cockpit, a fitting tribute for a band who have always worn their heart on their sleeve. Welcome back boys – we’ve missed you.
Whilst the ladies toilet queue reassures us that there are some women in tonight’s crowd, the sea of Liam Gallagher haircuts and Fred Perry polos assures us that we are indeed at a ‘dad lad’-heavy Kasabian gig. The atmosphere feels like a cross between a football match and a pantomime as spotlights illuminate their two frontmen, taking a slowed down version of ‘Bumblebee’ and pushing it gradually to its inevitable release. As soon as that beat drops, all of the evening’s scepticism evaporates: the flush of pink is visually stunning as it reflects on the sea of pints thrust aloft, worshipping at the altar of big, bold British rock.
Testosterone is flung to the wall as they romp through ‘Shoot The Runner’ and ‘Underdog’ to near hysteria before bringing on a skeletoned-costumed mini orchestra for a fantastic rendition of ‘Where Did All The Love Go’. As the strong day-glo imagery projects bizarre wording and random phrases (‘trackie’ ‘commit no nuisance’,‘skeggy’), an oddly retro punk ethos tints proceedings, a definite two-fingers in the air atmosphere. Well, if punk was arena-sized, platinum selling and constantly banging on about ‘aving it’, that is.
As always, the strength of tonight’s gig is in the kinship of Kasabian’s duel frontmen. Serge Pizzorno, all flailing limbs, maracas and a sewn-on fox’s tail, is the perfect partner for Tom Meighan’s straighter shtick and surprisingly powerful voice. They look to each other regularly, drinking in the screams of audience and cavorting their way through the deranged funhouse that is ‘eez-eh’, arguably one of the most memorable songs of the year.
Amongst all the bravado, however, are a collection of British anthems that never say die. Kasabian are not a band usually associated with diversity, but here, tonight, they prove that they can do ballads (‘Goodbye Kiss’), pop choruses (‘Bow’) and even 80s discotheque (‘Treat’) with startlingly ease. As the foot stamping threatens to break the balcony during ‘Vlad The Impaler’ and ‘Fire’, this could well have been a Greatest Hits concert. If this is indeed an Empire, consider Tom ‘n’ Serge your new Director Generals.