20th June | O2 Academy
Between themselves and a certain four-piece from Sheffield, Kasabian perhaps stand as the last bastion of what we know as the verifiably-assured British rock star. For the last decade, they’ve boisterously taken the torch from Oasis and held it aloft at shows and festivals the world over, pretty much regardless of the quality of their recorded output. Whether stumbling at the play-by-numbers of Velociraptor! or headlining Glastonbury off the back of the erratic, albeit revitalising, 48:13, the Leicester jesters have snarled with confidence for over a decade. As Serge Pizzorno waltzes in an hour before their set in a flamboyant green fur coat, and you are reminded of how he chipped David Seaman at Soccer Aid, you begin to fall for their dastardly charms.
The O2 Academy feels predictably tiny for the occasion. Queues swing around Frog Street before doors. The Hatchet Inn is reliably packed and there’s a sense of togetherness, even before the night has begun. Fans pile into the venue; the Academy has never felt this sold-out, the main bar more of a leaning post for late arrivals. Those that arrived early predictably remain in place for the rest of the night, safe in the knowledge they’ll be able to catch a view of their heroes before chaos ensues – and oh, does it ensue.
Striking up ‘Nessun Dorma,’ the first blistering bellow from the crowd erupts like an Icelandic thunderclap as Kasabian take to the stage, Tom Meaghan completely unassuming as always, yet the fuse that sets this crowd and this band alight, whether in front of 160,000 or 1600. “Stop talking shit, you walk into another trap,” the crowd scream with the frontman as the band tear into ‘Ill Ray,’ the latest in a line of venomous diatribes atop a pedestal. The crowd have surged forward to be a part. The beer is flying in all directions. It’s raucous, predictably so for a band of this magnitude. An energy is brewed that the band may lose in front of a festival crowd or even an arena. It’s telling from the band, that their constant salutations to the crowd and city imply a sense of surprise as much as thanks for such wild devotion.
From there on in, the group do not let up. ‘Underdog’ and ‘Shoot the Runner’ summon the first terraces-chanting melodies of the night. Serge punches the air at the front of the stage when he’s not dancing to the searing yet quite atmospheric hook from his own guitar. They sound sharp. ‘You’re in Love with a Psycho’ is delivered with an air of perhaps unintentional liberation. Tom and Serge unite for the chorus with a clarity that rings so true that it even overwhelms the crowds increasingly rowdier chants.
The unity of crowd and performer is perhaps the most vital quality of the night’s enjoyment. The crowd repeatedly bellow the words “football’s coming home,” in the hope the group will amuse them by partaking in World Cup revelry. While they don’t concede, they have the baying crowd in their palms nonetheless, the raucous punk of their more recent output provoking the crowd into a wave of delirium just as much as ‘LSF’ and ‘Fire’.
Kasabian would follow this with a triumphant headline set at The Isle Of Wight Festival, but what the Bristol crowd in attendance can take from the show is the sense that they were gifted Kasabian at their rawest and perhaps most natural.