Why see the best live band of the moment once when you can see them twice? Redheadess compares Kasabian in Bremen and Birmingham, while Belle takes us on a little journey of her Kasabian love in the past 5 years …
INTRODUCTION BY BELLE
To make this clear, we don’t fly to England for shows all of the time… just several times a year to be honest. For this particular case –Kasabian with support The Maccabees at Birmingham’s LG Arena–, we have multiple excuses: The first and not so good one; we hadn’t seen The Maccabees in over a year; the second and much better one: Personally I have never been at a headliner gig where both main and support act ranked this highly in my personal list of favourite bands; to make it more clear, The Maccabees rank #1 on my last.fm most played list with Kasabian following on #9 and about to take #8 from The Vaccines.
The reason I stole this introduction from the dear Redheadess who had her article done ages before me, though, is that I’m 90% sure that the first article ever published on indie pen dance was a review of Kasabian’s 2009 Hamburg gig, after I had just discovered them for myself, touring my still favourite album of theirs, “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum”. Almost exactly 5 years later, I’m reviewing them again, and while it is fascinating how I hailed them one of the best live bands at the moment back then already, the gig was nothing compared to what Kasabian lay down these days. After having headlined Glastonbury -let that sink in for a moment- the Leicester lads boast even more confidence on stage than they did before – while for Tom Meighan there wasn’t much room for improvement anymore, Sergio Pizzorno has certainly progressed from his “co-frontman” role and turned into a full-time audience entertainer who curiously sports a wolf tail on stage and a white t-shirt with a different nonsensical word each night, throwing maracas into the audience several times during a set, performing sensational jumps for photo-ops and occasionally taking the stage alone while Meighan leaves to who knows where.
Their set is accompanied by a breathtaking light show, usually with yet another nonsensical word shown large on the giant screen behind them, and the mood in the audience was sensational to say the least, although as a result it was admittedly hard to breathe most of the time. With the release of their fifth and latest album “48:13” my already waning love for the band had hit a new low as the album failed to grow on me and I pretty much abandoned it completely, although I loved über-hit “Eez-eh” as much as everyone else (“Eez-eh! Eez-eh!” being a popular chant at the show, along with “Sergio! Sergio!” – no “To-hom! To-hom!”, perhaps just because his name doesn’t lend itself to chanting so well). I hadn’t liked their ventures into a more aggressive sound and more mainstream-appealing hooklines, missing the dark, mysterious, drug-induced sound of their first era as well as the slight creepiness of “WRPLA”‘s atmosphere. But Kasabian make up for it by being, well, the best live band at the moment, from what I’ve seen at least … and now I’m even giving “48:13” another chance.
In conclusion, while in 2009 I already thought that they were worth every cent of the “hefty” €27.25 entry, these days not only the €39 for a German concert ticket, even the roughly €60 they took from us for the Birmingham gig with all fees included don’t feel like a waste of money, especially not with The Maccabees opening and playing no less than three new songs off their upcoming album, and needless to mention, all of them chillingly amazing. Of course it’s sad to see your favourite band performing in front of an audience who’s there to see someone else (and shows it), but a lot less sad than not seeing them at all. And in the end, I’m sorry to say, Kasabian of course stole their thunder, but they’re also a very different kind of band altogether, and I’m glad to have taken the one-time chance of seeing both of them on one bill.
COMPARISON BY REDHEADESS
I’ve never been an exceptionally big fan of Kasabian; to be honest, I’ve mostly ignored them until the release of their third album, and managed not to see them live until they released the fourth. I don’t even think I could imagine them playing to less than 3,000 people after seeing them play a pre-headliner slot before Arctic Monkeys at last year’s Hurricane Festival.
But here I am, having gotten so involved as to see them live twice in the course of one month: Once at Pier 2 – a 2,800 people venue in Bremen – and once in Birmingham’s LG Arena, five times as big, with a capacity of 16,000. So why not do a little write-up to compare the two shows?
As bands seem to not come to Hamburg anymore (looking at you, Arctic Monkeys), despite it being the second-biggest city in Germany and a popular place to travel to for fans from Scandinavia, we had to settle for Bremen instead. Since I had, in a rush, forgotten my ticket in one of the lockers at the train station, I managed to arrive only after doors – and even after a trip to the toilets I managed to easily walk through right into the second row. When Arctic Monkeys had played the same venue back in summer, it hadn’t even been possible to get into the first 10 rows without having camped out for 10 hours before doors, apparently.
Supporting Kasabian on the European leg of their tour were Pulled Apart By Horses from Leeds, whom I’d seen earlier this year and who did not disappoint. Musicially, they were not exactly the best fit to warm up Kasabian fans, but they still managed their best and were quite entertaining. Looking around, as someone in their early 20s, I did feel quite young. The audience consisted of people of literally every age from about 15 to 65. I’m not saying a lot of people dragged their parents along, maybe some, but there were lots of 40-somethings having the time of their lives, apparently. And isn’t that a lot more relaxing than having a bunch of 14-year-olds screaming into your ear? Indeed. Pier 2 has a balcony available for sold-out concerts, which was, surprisingly, not even opened that night. Looking at it this way, I kept telling myself I wouldn’t see Kasabian again on a stage as small as this, with so little people watching – we were maybe 2,000. It did feel incredibly intimate, and the band didn’t seem to care too much. Maybe it’s a welcoming change to all the huge shows they’d played in the months before – an outdoor gig in their hometown Leicester, headlining Glastonbury… you name it.
And just like us, for their English fans it wasn’t enough seeing Kasabian in their home country – no, at least one group of excited English lads had travelled to Bremen with flags and chants… cheap Ryanair flights go from London-Stansted directly to Bremen – it’s a no-brainer for ultra-fans.
Kasabian kicked off their set with their single ‘Stevie’ from their 5th studio album 48:13, only to directly go into on of their older hits, ‘Shoot The Runner’.
Guitarist Serge Pizzorno, trendsetting as ever, walked out sporting a (hopefully fake-fur) fox tail that he apparently hasn’t taken off since, singer Tom Meighan decided not to take off his entirely unnecessary sunglasses for at least a quarter of the set. Later, he disappeared during ‘Treat’, leaving Serge singing basically everything by himself as the lights of a crazy laser show washed over him. The light show in general was pretty cool, but nothing in comparison to what we’d see on the UK tour. The encore left us with a nice cover of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’, but a kind of anti-climatic ending of ‘L.S.F.’ after the absolute smasher ‘Vlad The Impaler’ that had everyone on their feet in no time, for the whole song straight. Still, we’ve had the time of our lives, and we owe in all to them.
9.5/10, would recommend.
The setlists of both shows differed massively: Not only did Kasabian play two more songs in Birmingham, they also took their hit single ‘Bumblebeee’ from its position as first song after the encore and put it in the very beginning, making ‘Stevie’ the first song of the encore instead. The Bremen audience did not get to hear ‘Clouds’, ‘Cutt Off’, ‘Thick As Thieves’, ‘S.P.S’, ‘Switchblade Smiles’ or ‘Bow’, instead Kasabian played oldies like ‘Processed Beats’, ‘The Doberman’ and ‘Take Aim’. I’d hoped for ‘Doomsday’ or a revival of ‘Velociraptor’, which they’ve apparently banned from their setlist, but that’s just wishful thinking, really. So spending about 200 bucks on a weekend trip to Birmingham was definitely worth it.
The LG Arena in Birmingham is maybe the most comfortable venue I’ve visited in the UK. Located on the premises of Birmingham Airport and a part of the National Exhibition Center, the arena decided to offer a nice and warm waiting hall complete with food stalls, merchandise booths and even a little stage to watch local bands before the actual concert. The Forum, as it’s called, opened its doors at 5 p.m., an hour before fans would be let into the actual venue. The staff is super friendly and apparently rewarded the first 50 or so fans to get to the venue with an early entry and a separate waiting area. How nice of them! Arriving at 4:30, if you’re fast, will allow you to still be in the second row. Not much difference to our Bremen show, then – except we arrived about three hours earlier.
For their UK tour, Kasabian decided to have The Maccabees support them. One and a half year after announcing that they might be playing new songs at upcoming festivals, the London quintet finally managed to present three new songs to us. And it was worth the wait. All fingers are crossed for an April release of their fourth studio album, successor to their 2012 album ‘Given To The Wild’. They were great, affectionate and happy to be there, and that’s all that counts. We were presented with a new keyboardist and a foretaste of what direction their new record might be going in. Maybe an epilepsy warning would have been appropriate, dear arena, since literally everyone had to close their eyes during ‘Pelican’ to not directly look into the flashing lights from the stage. Too bad, really. Generally, if the headliner takes their band of choice on tour with them, it’s rude of the audience to not appreciate them enough. Barely anyone sang along or cheered, and The Maccabees really aren’t unpopular in the UK.
During the interval, we were greeted with big pink numbers on the LED screen at the back of the stage, a 30-minute-countdown to make the waiting time less boring. This time, surrounded not by 40-somethings but more people their children’s age, groups of teenagers and maybe even a football team, I felt less young, but the general audience – thanks to seating tickets – was still not much different from the Bremen show. I might have spotted some families with little children.
Opening with ‘Bumblebeee’, it took me some time to realize that not only Serge was standing on one side of the stage with an acoustic guitar, illuminated by one single spot, but as soon as Tom started singing, he also got his very own spotlight on the other side of the stage. Once again, they went directly into ‘Shoot The Runner’. And the crowd went absolutely crazy. They didn’t stop being crazy for the next two hours, either. At this point, I want to thank the guy in front of me, whose body was incredibly soft to be pushed against. Cheers for that!
Before going into their hit from 2011, ‘Re-Wired’, Serge started to sing Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ that made an odd, but cool interlude for what followed.
Both Tom and Serge apparently had a whole cartload of tambourines and maracas backstage, since they didn’t think twice about throwing them into the crowd after use. No biggie. I was especially amazed by the light show, that was not only extremely photo-friendly, but also sent live-recordings from the stage through a filter onto the LED screens. Sometimes, we got to see random words like ‘trackie’ or ‘treasure’ or – not so random – ‘bumblebeee’, and during the absolutely crazy ‘Vlad The Impaler’ experience, there was a countdown to the first ‘get loose’ part of the track, which was maybe the most intense concert moment I’ve experienced this year.
If you ever get exhausted and are just before giving up and letting yourself be pulled out during a Kasabian concert, here’s a tip for you: just take a look at Ian Matthews. He does not stop smiling once. This guy is having the time of his life behind his drum kit. He’s so happy to be there, and so should you!
Thinking about it now, the atmosphere was maybe especially great because Birmingham is only an hour away from Leicester, and it’s safe to say that a lot of people from there decided to go to this show. Everyone was having a great night, tourist guitarist Tim Carter was happy as ever, Chris Edwards face planted from excitement at the end of the gig after throwing something at the crowd and Serge and Tom… well, were being Serge and Tom and practically jumped each other from overwhelming affection every now and then. Nothing we haven’t seen before, really. Serge even took the time to jump into the photo pit and touch hands with some fans. I haven’t seen ecstasy like this since I’ve stopped going to pop-punk shows.
All in all, the Birmingham gig was stressful, but overwhelming and endorphine-rich and the arena was left looking like a battlefield made of plastic cups. And everyone was left with their tune of choice stuck in their heads. 11/10, would recommend!
We conclude with Belle’s video of the the opening track “Bumblebeee” … to give you just a hint of the madness we witnessed: