The Leicester war machine lays siege to London’s royal venue for the Teenage Cancer Trust
The Royal Albert Hall: a giant Fabergé egg resting on the corner of Kensington. Home to generations of mutton-chopped colonels high on sherry belting out ‘Rule Britannia’ in honour of an empire on which the sun never set. Tonight, it hosts an altogether different empire, as Kasabian set out to crush the last pockets of resistance to their rock’n’roll equivalent of Trident. Yet even the über-arrogance of this band seems to be cowed by the history that weeps from these esteemed walls.
“Fookin’ hell. The Queen’s over there,” gushes Tom Meighan, stabbing a mitt towards the royal box. “This is fuckin’ surreal,” purrs Serge Pizzorno, resplendent in a white shirt and rosé trousers, capped by a clipped, triangular beard that lends him the cloven-hoofed air of a debonair Satan.
“How many hands does it take to fill the Albert Hall?” asks Tom, calling upon the crowd to put ’em up halfway through ‘By My Side’. It’s a joke so well-worn that if the Queen found it in her Christmas cracker, she’d behead the manufacturers.
Soon, there’s more royal knockabout – an exchange on the whereabouts of Prince Philip (“You can see him by his enormous nose”) quickly descends into a stream of gak jokes (“Are they looking for Charlie maybe?”, “We’ve got Charlie, don’t we?” “Yeah…”), before Tom announces: “Right, let’s cut the shit act, then.”
Wise words indeed. But then Kasabian were never made for talking. This is a band made to move every molecule in your body one millimetre backwards through sheer sonic force, and their throttle is even more terrifying tonight after the jazz noodling of support band, The Bees.
Yesteryear’s psychedelic heroes come on and pootle around, swapping instruments like it’s a Sunday social on the village green. In fact, the Royal Horticultural Society banner hung on their organ says pretty much all you need to know about a pastoral sound that’s best experienced lying face-up in a cloud of dope. While the clucking crazy groove of ‘Chicken Payback’, and the reggae horn-draped billow of ‘Left Foot Stepdown’ are magnificent – genius even – they’re just not quite loud enough to fill these palatial surroundings.
Then Kasabian judder on, an iron fist in an iron glove, with a loudness that irradiates your very soul. Opening with the instrumental salvo of ‘Stay Away From The Brown Acid’, which turns from British Airways theme tune into World War Three theme tune over the course of four minutes, we are given a refresher course in Gallagher & Gallagher Enterprise steamroller-rock. Tom arrives with some “How you fuckin’ doing?” for the ballsy ‘Shoot The Runner’, but with Kasabian it’s never the frontman you’re watching.
It’s the grizzled presence of Serge that compels. Onstage he leans back, arching his pelvis, absolutely stationary. Tom struts and preens, skipping dandified in his tight jeans and blousy top, rallying the troops. Tom looks like he’s the father of two adorable little girls. Serge looks like he’s the father of a nameless evil.
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‘Reason Is Treason’, ‘Cutt Off’ and ‘Sun/Rise/Light/Flies’ buzz over ducked heads. After the spooky meltdown of ‘By My Side’, Serge does his Noel-tribute weepy solo acoustic number, ‘British Legion’, accompanied by drummer Ian Matthews
on a single snare.
It’s patchy. By turns, his naked act is both the music box strum of a lost Verve ballad and the tuneless bellow of a bull saying goodbye to its nadgers, proof that however much he might command the spotlight, that solo album will have to wait until he can, well… sing. Yet tonight, he gets away with it, bowing out to warm rapture from the crowd – a rapture that lasts through the barrage of nu-baggy bruisers from the first album: ‘Processed Beats’, ‘Club Foot’, and the loping mind-experiment chitter of ‘Cutt Off’.
‘The Doberman’ is as blunt and vicious as its namesake and the encore opens with ‘Stuntman’, its primal jungle-chant sounding like Mowgli kicking the shit out of an electronic tiger. After a few words thanking us for our support and noting that teenage cancer is so hard to beat, Kasabian sign off with an extended ‘LSF’, Tom challenging the flanks of the Albert Hall to a row-row-row-your-boat-style sing-off during the “ah-ah-ahhhs”.
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It’s like the Last Night Of The Indie Proms. Death, glory, whatever. Kasabian’s sabre-rattling grande noise has made a light brigade charge for the high ground. It seems the age of lad-rock empires may not yet be past.