The O2, London, December 31st
Indie interview fact #352: when asked about their career ambitions, nine out of 10 bands will mumble and reply that they “just want to keep on making music”. Whether through humble self-deprecation, an all-too-sensible awareness of reality or simple unwillingness, the modern band is often afraid to dream big, content to sell enough records to keep the beer fridge well-stocked and see where life takes them.
[a]Kasabian[/a], however, have always been resolutely in the other 10 per cent. Even if Tom and Serge had wound up being plumbers, they’d probably be the kind of plumbers that operated their business from a spaceship and attached water flumes to your pipes to jazz them up a bit. Mediocrity is not in their vocabulary. So ask them what they’re aiming for and they’ll say “headlining festivals”, “scoring Number Ones” and “being the biggest band on the planet”. And, heading up the bill at one of the biggest venues, in the country’s biggest city, on New Year’s Eve, the biggest party night of the year, even their loftier ambitions start to look like the puny earth viewed from their soaring rocket’s rear window.
But before The O2’s returning heroes arrive (this will be Kasabian’s third sold-out show at the venue this month, with tickets for tonight being touted for preposterous three-figure amounts), dubstep megatrons [a]Chase & Status[/a] turn up to stoke the fire in the evening’s lusty loins. Whatever you might think of them, there’s no doubting that, like Kasabian, Saul Milton and Will Kennard don’t do things by halves. Tom and Serge might sever those halves with the swoosh of a ruby-encrusted sword where Chase & Status club away with a sledgehammer, but the effect is much the same: both click their collective fingers and everyone jumps.
However, the basic difference of fanbase between the acts means that there’s a miniature exodus street-wards between sets. By the time Kasabian take to the stage the pit is more of a merry, dancing mass than a flailing, amorphous blob. And whether it’s because of the slight extra leg room or the general celebratory hubbub, tonight’s New Year’s Eve victory lap does feel different to your common or garden weekend gig – with the wild spirit of a massive club night, it’s delicious, hedonistic fun and a jubilant celebration of just how easily Kasabian can now command a crowd of this size.
From the opening strains of ‘Days Are Forgotten’, the quintet are on the kind of casually confident form that shows they don’t even really have to try these days – though, naturally, they more than excel. Twenty thousand people in front of them? Standard day at the office. God and Google Analytics alone know how many thousands more are streaming the gig from home. And, as the glam stomp of ‘Shoot The Runner’ properly kicks proceedings into gear, you can understand why. With a set that piledrives through hit after hit, the work has already been done. The wickedly ridiculous ‘Velociraptor!’ is greeted with as much fervent adoration as the oldies, ‘Underdog’ comes in on a built-for-arenas guitar and swells into a swaggering anthem, while ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ – one of the weaker singles on record – packs a far heftier live punch and incites some amazingly crap dancing in the breakdown.
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The night has bowled on with such gusto that it’d be easy to let time run away with us, missing the stroke of 12 thanks to Kasabian’s consummately engrossing madness. But on the back of an ominous bass rumble, Serge – decked out in leather trenchcoat and feathered collar – begins to mutter. “[i]It’s coming… It’s coming…[/i]” he says, like some kind of sexy gothic Time Lord as the scattered keyboards of ‘I Hear Voices’ kick in. As he roars “[i]Ten! Nine![/i]”, black balloons slowly start to cascade from the roof. “[i]We’re too early![/i]” Tom shrieks wildly, halting proceedings (though not gravity, one might add) mid-way through the ceremony. “[i]Fuck reality, this is Hollywood![/i]” his feathered ally replies.
And as the countdown begins again and the remaining balloons drift earthwards, nobody knows or cares if it really is midnight this time, because reality is still a good hour away from resuming. For now, however, it’s firmly back to Hollywood – or Serge’s warped version of it, which currently means welcoming in 2012 with a track named after a vampire and inescapable recollections of a prancing Noel Fielding. We couldn’t wish for more.
Now a full seven years and seven months since its initial release, ‘Club Foot’ makes for a timely reminder of just how far the band have come since their Gallagher-endorsed beginnings, while ‘Re-wired’ proves that progression has, thankfully, made them no less adept at penning instantly catchy classics. Then there’s a rabble-rousing ‘Empire’, ‘Fast Fuse’ (complete with seamless segue into ‘Misirlou’ from the [i]Pulp Fiction[/i] soundtrack), and ‘LSF’ – all embraced with drunken, open arms. Filthy recent smash ‘Switchblade Smiles’ and ‘Stuntman’’s heady club rush kick off the encore, but it’s really all about the finale.
Drawn out to epic proportions, ‘Fire’ is about as brilliantly overblown an end to proceedings as you can get; not so much the cherry on the top, as the cherry, whipped cream, glitter and that ruddy enormous rocket again. There’s confetti cannons, an extended, chanting finish, and Tom gets London’s notoriously static crowd to sit down and burst up en masse for the chorus not once, but twice. It’s Kasabian’s glorious ring-a-ring-a-roses; and given the rapturous, theatrical response, they might as well have thorny blooms between their teeth as these great men of the stage bow and draw the curtains on one of the greatest rock’n’roll shows of our time.
Heck, Shakespeare and Hollywood could learn a trick or two from these guys.