fri 10/07/2020

Kasabian, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Kasabian, Roundhouse

Kasabian, Roundhouse

Bloke rockers prove unexpectedly sensitive in a danceable, couple-friendly gig

Kasabian: skilful entertainers who know how to give people a good timeCharlie Gray

The genteel north London of the Roundhouse isn’t the obvious venue for a ladtronica and bloke rock band. Especially one that’s recently come from headlining Glastonbury and is used to open horizons, and sound systems more dangerously ramped-up than Primrose Hill house prices. By giving a performance that wowed an audience of mainly young couples, Kasabian showed a character and identity that’s more nuanced than the standard hairy bloke depiction allows.

They played two sets, with a first set that seemed deliberately lower-key and less spectacular than the second, as if they were supporting themselves. Nothing is too meta for a band that performs in front of a pink screen saying “canister”. The first set drew on songs from across their career, including pieces like “Running Battle” and “I.D” from their first album. They got the audience moving, but didn’t have the familiarity of their recent work. For the second set the lighting was enhanced with a huge pink screen, designed to match the artwork for the album they released earlier this year, 48:13. As well as displaying gnomic slogans (from the surreal, “maggot munch”, through to the muso philosophising of “bin bag”, on Serge Pizzorno’s T-shirt) the screen’s strong backlighting effect sometimes silhouetted the band rather romantically, while the ejaculation of spumes of beer, arcing their way across the wall of light, brought the spectacle back down to earth.

Musically, the second set was a combination of this year’s album and 2011’s Velociraptor!. On disc, the stylistic variety comes through more clearly: the electronica, the pop cadences, the moments of rap, the ambient sounds, or the snatches of piano ballad that Kasabian borrow to give their songs a wider appeal. Live, some of this is overwhelmed by the need to keep the guitar groove going strong, and with only a few exceptions such as the acoustic country jangle of “Goodbye Kiss”, pounding guitar chords take over.

Kasabian are self-aware enough to maintain a sense of theatre everywhere

This makes the live gigs danceable. Anyone can dance to Kasabian’s music. If the rhythm doesn’t make it easy enough, lead singer Tom Meighan will often talk you through the moves. So all-consuming does the mood become at times, that the warm, dark, round space and comforting, regular thud almost begin to feel like a womb. Granted, you’d be worried for a mother whose heartbeat sounded Serge Pizzorno’s guitar, but as the whole room moved together, a sense of deep contentment took hold.    

The rock world doesn’t lack for hairy blokes who thrash guitars, but most of those blokes believe their own hype. Kasabian are self-aware enough to maintain a sense of theatre everywhere, not just in the slogans and silliness, but also some of the lyrics, such as, from an early version of “Eez-eh”, now slightly altered: “Horsemeat in the burgers, people commit murders, everyone’s on bugle, we’re being watched by Google.” Even more, they understand that their Friday night audience wants to dance until they forget.

The rock world doesn’t lack for hairy blokes who thrash guitars, but most of those blokes believe their own hype

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

'The first set drew on songs from across their career, including pieces like “Running Battle” and “I.D” from their first album.' The first half of the set was literally their debut album from start to finish. It was advertised everywhere that they would be doing this, because today is the 10th anniversary of the album's release. It "didn’t have the familiarity of their recent work" because it didn't include any of their recent work. For a reason. But they're still playing about half of the album live at pretty much every gig to this day, so I'd think one or two people in the crowd were familiar with the songs. Also, you should probably listen to Eez-eh again if you think there is something about horsemeat in the lyrics. That was an early demo version of the song that the NME wrote about extensively because they have nothing better to do. That lyric never actually made it into the finished song.

Thank you, Anon. I must admit I arranged to go to this very late and hadn't seen the gig PR that announced they'd be re-playing their debut album. I just thought the first set was a bit subdued compared to the second, but that's for a range of reasons. 

As far as Eez-eh is concerned, it was hard to make out more than about one word in three. I've changed the wording slightly to indicate that line was from a draft, though the line about Google is still there, and still quite silly. Overall, though, my point is positive (as, overall, was most of the NME coverage): the humour and silliness makes Kasabian more interesting and enjoyable than many bands who take themselves very seriously. 

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