A low-key warm-up show, except that Tom and Serge don't do
Listen: Kasabian are bloody brilliant, and anyone who doesn’t think so should go away and have a long hard think about where things like love, faith and jumping up and down sit on their list of priorities. The rest of you, read on. It’s been a while since this band last played on home turf, signing off the ‘Empire’ strategy with that Earls Court megashow. Since then they’ve been taking their pagan-techno-psych rockshow to far-flung corners of the Earth while working up the blueprints for their third record – which has variously been described as a “hypnotic ’60s techno road movie”, a Syd Barrett-style opus and “a more psychedelic and danceable version of The Wizard Of Oz”.
On paper, tonight’s show is a warm-up for Creamfields. In practise it’s a joyous affirmation of this band’s powers and of just how much we need them. From ‘Shoot The Runner’’s opening thunderclaps, you’re reminded that rock has been a little bit less colourful in the time they’ve been away. With long hair and shocking purple trousers Tom Meighan, always a force of nature onstage, looks to have reinvented himself as Heath Ledger’s Joker. Serge’s transformation into zen-like wizard king is only accelerating. And Chris, Ian and the new guy propel their axis of righteousness to the heavens. Here’s the thing: as Kasabian became known as masters of the giant outdoor festival show, that status became confused – in a lot of people’s eyes – with simplicity. Up close and personal at the Engine Shed you can hear how much depth and nuance is packed into these songs; the dubby undercurrents in ‘By My Side’; the layers and slithers that go into making ‘Empire’ sound as colossal as it does; the mystical tics within ‘Me Plus One’. And ergo, part of the reason why the ‘Empire’ album didn’t propel them to stadium enormousness was that it was just too damn interesting. What they do have is somewhere new to go. And so, yes, there might be beer flying around the room, but these aren’t lunk-headed macho brutes who have come to worship. This was never about that. There’s a new song: ‘Fire’ is a Bolan-standard psych-rock riot that speeds up, slows down and spirals around its deceptively simple refrain of “I’m on FIIIIIIIIIIIIIRE!” like a big fuck-off rollercoaster. It’s kind of a sequel to ‘Shoot The Runner’, only more uproarious.
Things look to climax, as they always do, with ‘LSF’ and its final “whoa whoa whoa” war chants, Tom leading “just the males!” and then “just the females!” before everyone comes together to sing Kasabian off in familiar, but still thrilling fashion. And then something remarkable happens. They remain onstage and burn into ‘Fast Fuse’, the supposed limited EP the label frantically drew back at the end of last year when they realised how good it was. And it is that good, a skittering garage rocker, powered by the dancefloor and led by Serge pummelling a voodoo country effect from an acoustic guitar before crescendoing with grand flamenco backflips, Tom’s jumping around getting more epileptic (or more elliptic?) than ever. It’s perhaps their boldest, oddest moment yet and bodes frighteningly well. Lincoln came to remind itself of Kasabian’s past; but it stayed to glimpse what’s looking like an incredible future.