The last time I saw them they were at Rock City. But they’re bigger than that now. Much bigger.
Date: December 2, 2011
Venue: Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
If ever George Lucas suddenly wakes up in a cold sweat and realises that Ewan McGregor was hopeless as the young Obi-Wan in the latest Star Wars trilogy, and wants to re-create them from scratch using an edgier version of the character, he should look no further than Kasabian’s talismanic frontman, Tom Meighan.
With his scraped-back gelled hair and shades, he’s the spit of McGregor, but rather than be a total softy like his portrayal of Obi-Wan, Tom’s Obi would be played as if he’d stayed at Mos Eisley and become addicted to some intergalactic illegal substance and formed a rock band (we’re not suggesting for one minute that Tom is ‘on’ anything, right lawyers?).
And like Obi-Wan, Tom casts his spell over the Arena’s sold-out crowd. This definitely IS the gig we’re looking for. (Apologies to those who – shamelessly – have never seen the ‘Star Wars’ films and therefore haven’t ‘got’ the movies’ references thus far)
His energy and verve is addictive, and his partner, Serge, as always, offers the cool side of the Kasabian pillow. The pair of them actually make odd bedfellows when you consider their disparate personas. But combined they’re the roaring force behind this incredible band, whom, yet again, so effortlessly demonstrate their unyielding power in the live arena.
There’s no suggestion that Serge is the moody one; the down to Tom’s up. Hell no, he takes over as ringmaster when Tom’s energy reserves are low, orchestrating his audience like a hirsute deity.
But at times, he’s also darkly mysterious, particularly when he twiddles with the myriad electronic devices that create the digital swirl that forms the beginning of ‘I.D.’. Half-focussed on the job in hand, half self-gratifying himself with his new toys, he fiendishly rolls his eyes upwards, grinning like an evil genius who’s just about to unleash his latest devilish masterpiece. With his facial hair and dark flowing locks, he’s like Jesus possessed by Beelzebub.
The band’s detractors are all-too-quick to criticise them for being one-dimensional. A lads band full of bravado and attitude, with a cocksureness akin to those Gallagher brothers before they realised they wanted to kill one another. And it’s true that they appeal to the alpha male, evidenced in the moshpit, which is a heaving squall of sweat and testosterone fuelled by such heavy hitters as ‘Shoot The Runner’, ‘Club Foot’, ‘Fast Fuse’ (which morphs into a version of Dick Dale and his Del-Tones”Misirlou’), ‘Empire’, new belter ‘Velociraptor!’, and ‘L.S.F’, a song so anthemic, it’s simple ‘ah ah ah’ coda is sang by the entire arena as the band exit the stage in readiness for the encore and continue to do so until they return.
But there’s a softer side to the band which is seldom recognised. The neo-Kinksian ‘Thick as Thieves’, for example, and ‘Goodbye Kiss’, a divisive confuser of a song, out of character with their machismo; a love song that had Adele written, Q Magazine would be waxing lyrical about its inherent soul and meaning, but had Bon Jovi written it (amazingly, a semblence of both artists is audible), critics would be vigorously thumbing they’re dog-eared thesaurus’s to find detrimental words to describe ‘lovelorn rock balladry’. But it demonstrates Tom’s ability to actually sing. Something that gets lost in all the breathless effervescence of the set.
Serge’s lolling psychedelic ‘La Fee Verte’, though, is the real oddity. A meander into Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs period, or a shot at White Album-era Beatles at their LSD-addled sharpest.
But largely, it’s chest-beating, fist-clenching rock ‘n’ roll they’re best at. “I wanna see Pandemonium”, Serge demands. “I want this place to crumble!” he insists. And when ‘Vlad The Impaler’ is dropped, it very nearly does. Upon the command of “Get loose, Get loose”, there isn’t a soul who doesn’t feel the compulsion to bounce wildly (apart from two members of the audience who, amazingly, fell asleep amongst all the noise and gusto!)
They end with ‘Fire’, with its crowd-pleasing chorus of ‘oh oh’s and ‘la la’s still echoing around the streets long after the gig has ended.
Once again Kasabian came and conquered. Serge got his pandemonium, the crowd got loose. Everybody’s happy.