It’s slightly surprising to learn that Kasabian‘s headline slot at Isle Of Wight Festival’s 50th anniversary is their first appearance at the event since 2011.
Like Reading And Leeds, you expect to hear ‘Club Foot’ and ‘Ee-Zeh’ on the island every other year, while seeing Tom Meighan endearingly cosy up to Serge Pizzorno in the rare calm moments.
That not much has changed in Kasabian’s shows in the intervening seven years is actually testament to both how strong their music has remained over the years, and how Kasabian know exactly which new songs to slot into their shows. Outside of maybe Foo Fighters, it’s hard to think of many other festival headliners who are able to spot the three or four huge tunes from each album that will plainly become festival favourites for decades to come.
So, if opening with ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ is a slightly subdued start, the other three songs from ‘For Crying Out Loud’ are greeted as rowdily as anything else in the 90-minute set. Impressive, given the album is still only 14 months old and Isle Of Wight has one of the more conservative, hits-hungry audiences on the circuit.
They were never in danger of missing their show altogether, but the kings of Leicester were apparently extremely late getting on site, which Meighan alluded to when he announced “Isle of Wight on a Friday night – thank God we got here” before ‘Re-Wired’. Such stress would explain why Pizzorno seemed off-kilter. As ever, Meighan was the cartoon stereotype of how a festival headlining frontman should behave, every gesture exaggerated, every smile at his guitarist a live action “Find a man who looks at you like…” meme.
By contrast, Pizzorno unusually seemed to be battling his guitar rather than controlling it. Maybe only seasoned Kasabian watchers would have noticed the difference. It was a battle Pizzorno ultimately won, not least because any show containing the guaranteed carnage of ‘Underdog’, ‘Empire’ or ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ has a headstart on 99% of other bands. But it was only when he went walkabout among the front rows during his lead vocal banger ‘Treat’ that Pizzorno was at his lithe and lively best.
Still, when Pizzorno began his traditional chant of “Moshpit! Moshpit!” before ‘Club Foot’, the resulting racket could have been heard on the mainland. The same goes for the equally expected deafening crowd singalong of the refrain of ‘LSF’ while waiting for Kasabian to return for the encore. The only true surprise was a sweet, brass-led cover of Groove Armada’s ambient classic ‘At The River’, dropped to mark that landmark festival anniversary.
It’s easy to mock Kasabian’s uber-lad image. It’s also foolish. At a time when working-class voices are more in danger than ever of being excluded, bands who have used their platform to champion psychedelic experimentation and show what a long-lasting bromance looks like are surely to be encouraged. Especially when in another 12 months they’ll doubtless have crafted another three or four certifiable festival classics.
Kasabian’s setlist was:
Ill Ray (The King)
Shoot The Runner
You’re In Love With A Psycho
At The River
Bless This Acid House