Kasabian : Glastonbury : live review
The singer is dressed like a James Bond on a stag night and the skinny guitar player is flouncing in classic rock n roll style. The music is huge and anthemic but is beyond the plod of guitar indie landfill and mixes electronics into its futuristic dragon grooves.
They are also huge and their headline Sunday slot gets an ecstatic and packed reception as the band emerge from the media twilight backed by the masses with their music that somehow resounds to the terrace anthem beat and is also highly original, brilliantly thought out and full of musical shape shifting and textures.
Kasabian are an odd band.
They are the misfits who did good. They came from the so called casual lad rock scene- the lad rockers who dressed down but, like modern footballers who also once used dress down, they now wardrobe up like lunatic outer space rock stars. They came from the church of stillism – that school of stage craft invented by Liam Gallagher but now rock out and put on a big show. They act daft and talk big in interviews with a hurricane confidence that can make them seem far more dumb than they really are but write brilliantly complex and diverse songs that can get 80 000 people singing along but still work on lots of different levels.
They may do the gonzoid arrogance thing to the press to perfection but are also really down to earth away from the shiny lights. They do the monkey walk of northern Manc cool transported to their Leicester roots but have a sly sense of humour about them. They are the biggest band in the UK that somehow have conspired to have been semi forgotten about by a media brimming with disdain and misunderstanding of their genius.
Tonight is a celebration – an affirming one hour plus of their brilliance with a killer set that saw mass outbreaks of singing along to songs that twist and turn into unconventional shapes that underline the sheer smarts that many of their tunes pack. There is no resting on the laurels with this band whose music leaps around several styles but is always somehow their own.
Club Foot now sounds enormous with its avalanche hook and perfect hip hop fused funky drummer loop making thousands of feet pound Eavis’s mucky dairy pasture into a field singalong to that infernally catchy hook-line. If most lad rock is happy to settle for the four chord chug of the Beatles songbook, Kasabian opened the door of perception of Tomorrow Never Knows and broke on through to the other side and turned the Beatles proto electronic piece of wizardry into a 21st century mantra and template. There is no retro going on here at all- this a modern psychedelia with hints of the mind trip f the sixties sluiced through kraut rock sometimes and the freak underground.
After all- the best music is drugs whether you take them or not.
They also acknowledged the past few decades as well, the adventures of acid house and then big beat is in there- the electronic power of the new dance music and the barrier breaking of non guitar music- they fused this all back together for their own take and the party has started.
It’s like all the old talk of the Stone Roses being a surrogate acid house and those then possible adventures into the future have now been realised all at once. This restless quest does not end here and the band have keep moving, their new album 48.13 is another leap of faith that got the fan base shitting themselves initially before acknowledging the band’s right to create pop on their own terms and make an album of futuristic new tunes, some of which they play tonight and which are shining as brightly pink as the records album cover and are rapturously received.
From the start of their career they were fusing electronics into their so called lad rock anthems. For every football singalong there was a weird sound, a piece of cinerama soundtrack, a stray hip hop beat, a collage of sound that made them stand out from the crowd. This was never a ramalama guitar bloke at the bustop band, this was a band who made the complex sound simple and are also quite groundbreaking in their own way and a way that is missed by their snooty distractors.
Well it’s certainly their moment. The big one. The headline at Glastonbury for the band who have been threatening to be the biggest band in the UK for quite some time. For Kasabian this is the moment.
There is humour and a love of the unconventional here- even the two covers they chuck in are neat surprises- a boisterous take on Norman Cook’s Praise You and a sliver of Gnarls Barclays’ Crazy slowed down and given the spaghetti western horns treatment before segueing into their own LSF- this is band acknowledging a different route- Kasabian are not paying homage to the sixties, they are very much a modern pop band like the Beatles were very much a modern pop band back in the sixties. That’s pop as in music that’s made for the people and not for the critics and it understands the beauty and stupidity of pop music and the way it can unite massive fields full of people and the way it can take chances in a way that indie music with its tired old rules of hipsters never can.
Those who dare, dare.
Kasabian entered the arena to a rapturous reception and kicked off with a new song before laying out big hit Shoot The Runner in a set that mixed the new material with the hits. Another new song Eez-eh sounded massive-a neo Kraftwerk bleep turned into a death disco stomp of a song that is already one of my favourite tunes by the band and a neat reminder of their own restless quest to turn themselves inside out and never rest on their own laurels.
Empire ended the set and had the whole field singing its catchy hook whilst waiting for the band to return and the encores could have gone on all night as far as the huge audience was concerned. The audience broke the normal Glastonbury code and hung around dancing to the Sunday night band instead of abandoning them in droves to avoid the traffic.
Kasabian are the obvious heirs to the mantle of the Oasis avalanche scale of success and they have become very big but somehow have conspired to exist just beyond the fringe. It’s not their fault. These are tricky times for bands of their ilk and their success has been muted outside big record sales and rabidly loyal fan base and not acknowledged. They are the sound of the suburbs and estates and not the hipster enclaves. When their slot was first announced it was treated with the same sort of disdain by the some of the media as was Metallica’s- a sort of ‘how dare they’ or ‘how can they’ tut-tutting broke out on twitter but tonight Kasabian are triumphant and look very comfortable on the big one.
They it’s because have been born out of the sullen Manc cool tradition- Oasis gave them their break and they have some of the trappings of that world from the gobby interviews to the knack of knocking out the people’s anthems but they have morphed into a very different beast than their forefathers.
There is none of that street cool- that don’t give anything away and dress down in casual – that don’t stand out in the crowd street wear that dominates many of the bands on this scene.
Kasabian are a fantastic anomaly in a world of plodders. Frontman Tom Meighan is more of your trad rabble rouser- communicating in syllables what the songs communicate in detail- he has the everyman touch that is vital to a group like this- the ‘look at me, what the fuck am I doing here- I’m one of you mate’ thing that is so crucial in bringing a spaceship like this down to the very earth of the fans.
His foil is the band’s resident genius Sergio Pizzorno, who flounces about the stage like a reject from the glam rock era (this a good thing!!) or the regency Stones from the summer of 1967- a kinda Leicester version of Brian Jones in his dandy finery and perfect hair souped up through his own bizarre vision of self made slogan t shorts (tonight he had ‘Wilfred’ written on the shirt- it’s one of 200 totally different designs that he apparently pulls out of the wash bag) He never plays a crushingly loud guitar and it sits back in the mix- even behind the bass, which, most of the time carries most of the riffs with a raw power and a funky tuffness that is very much the spine of this operation.
Serge’s live role in the band is the talisman and the conductor and his guitar is almost like his baton as the rest of the musicians play like some kinda gonzoid orchestra with the rhythm section being crucial with funky beats and that driving bass. He is also the co-vocalist and his melodic tripped out voice is a neat foil to Tom’s supayob swagger.
They also have a string section in tow which is a very wise move as proper strings always stand head and shoulders above the electronic binary from digital gear. The strings really add huge swathes of sound to the songs and a powerful dynamic that really separate Kasabian out from the mush of other bands.
Mistakingly dumped in with lad rock Kasabian have artful pretensions that also mark them out- it’s a brilliant small town artfulness- the kind of home made lack of metropolitan cool that is far cooler. No hipster band would ever wear skeleton outfits but Kasabian do and they make it look right and that’s some trick to pul off. Some of its silly some of its intuitionally funny but a lot of it adds to the colourful spectacle that makes them the perfect last night of Glastonbury blow out and the celebratory atmosphere in the field is testament that no-one really cares what the music snobs thinks and just want to party including Noel Fielding who joins them onstage for the encores wielding his weapon (ha ha) in a moment of brilliant sinister stupidity.
Kasabian are the perfect distillation of British pop culture from the past few decades but they are also a fast forward into the future. They are far smarter than they let on and far more musically innovative than anyone dares to admit.
Those who dare win.
Shoot the Runner
Days Are Forgotten
Vlad the Impaler
L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)