Tom and Serge take their grand experiment to the masses. Echo Arena, Liverpool, Monday, November 16
Kasabian arrive at Liverpool’s Echo Arena three days after Arctic Monkeys and five after Beyoncé. Those are some pretty big shoes (and hotpants) to fill. But Kasabian don’t need to pretend to any thrones: they have two Number One albums under their belts, and this arena tour feels like a natural step forward; one the band take with eagerness.
It’s a visual spectacular tonight, playing heavily on the ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ album artwork. The whole stage is enclosed by an enormous vertical frame that changes colour, while behind the band images flicker up like Victorian miniatures. Red, white and blue bunting hangs down, and the mental hospital theme flashes feverishly throughout: roadies dressed in white coats dart around the stage while pictures of body parts and brain scans appear on the backdrop.
Opening with ‘Underdog’ B-side ‘Julie And The Moth Man’ proves a bizarre choice, though, muting the atmosphere, and Kasabian take a big risk by lining up two cuts, albeit big ones, from their latest album to follow it. Luckily, they have the venom, not to mention the massive, pendulous tunes, to make ‘Underdog’ and ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ instant crowd-pleasers, and once Tom Meighan ditches his creepy black gloves he’s soon inciting adoration from the audience with his endless cries of, “Liverpool, get your fucking hands in the air!” Liverpool’s response? To throw beer over each other and roar like they’re possessed.
A venue this size attracts the more superficial fans, so it’s little surprise that the biggest reaction is saved for ‘Empire’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Club Foot’, but Kasabian sound richest on ‘Vlad The Impaler’ and, unusually, ‘Take Aim’, which mutates from a reticent album track into a threatening beast under Sergio Pizzorno’s stewardship. It doesn’t get the reaction it deserves, and neither does ‘West Ryder Silver Bullet’, which Meighan actually apologises for because it goes on for more than four minutes. But it’s to be expected that their subtler material won’t go down as well in these cavernous venues, and Kasabian know this, constructing a triumphant setlist that satisfies everyone. However, they stand on the threshold of an intriguing musical future, and they may not be able to take all these fans with them. Difficult choices lie ahead.