Kasabian pumps up the blood at the Vogue
At the Vogue Theatre on Monday, April 9
When the Fox took to the Vogue Theatre’s stage on April 9 to introduce psychedelic electro-rockers Kasabian as the NME Awards’ “best British band”, it was like an emcee announcing a champion fighter. And though it was questionable as to whether Kasabian truly lived up to that title, these masters of starry-eyed, rock ’n’ roll bravado staked out a pretty persuasive claim.
Kicking off the beer-saturated night with two of the band’s swashbuckling hits back-to-back—the Sergio Leone–esque “Days Are Forgotten” from its latest, Velociraptor!, and the masturbatory glam salute “Shoot the Runner”—frontman Tom Meighan and company were riding high on the crowd’s indulgent energy. Strutting back and forth from the frontline to his right-hand man, lead guitarist, and songwriter Sergio Pizzorno, Meighan spat out lyrics like bullets, singing defiantly, “You say I’m old hat/A fuckin’ dirty rat/Call me a cliché/How right you are.”
During blood-pumping numbers like “Underdog” and “Re-Wired”, Meighan played the part of grandiose gang leader, shuffling unabashedly to the latter’s disco beat and gliding around the stage with outstretched arms as if he wanted to take flight. Leaping to swipe at the air, he laughed openly at himself, trying to catch sunrise-red spotlight beams to no avail. And when he wasn’t delighting in his own antics, Meighan was engaging his audience with considerable mojo, caressing himself and puffing out his chest with gorilla machismo.
Pizzorno was no less compelling, looking like some kind of medieval mage from Dungeons & Dragons in a tasselled, dusty black tunic thing, backlit by acid-green lights—especially whenever he paused to bust a crazy move, his hands and tassels swaying wildly. The few instances when Pizzorno was free to interact with his fans were some of the show’s best bits, the light-footed, wide-eyed madcap trying to jazz everyone up and applauding proudly whenever the crowd reaction met his approval.
Pizzorno’s turn to handle vocals came with the dusky acoustic B-side “Black Whistler”, which faded out with a couple of bars of the Doors’ “People Are Strange”. Another homage popped up during the chant-like “Clubfoot”, which contained a winking shout-out to the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. Even so, seasoned fans of the band who know them for making spectacles of their most badass anthems, corralling the crowd for extended sing-alongs, might have been disappointed with this rendition, which felt unceremoniously cut-off.
Soon afterward came Kasabian’s other titanic U.K. hit, “Empire”, featuring one of the catchiest beats and choruses of any rock song in recent memory. And after tugging on everyone’s heartstrings with jangly ballad “Goodbye Kiss”, the electro swagger of “L.S.F.” proved to be a set highlight, leading swiftly into a pumped-up encore that had Kasabian’s first single off Velociraptor!, the unabashed freak-out “Switchblade Smiles”, bringing the evening to a fevered peak.
While they do work hard to bring their arena-rock ethos to life even in the smallest of venues, and for the most part succeed, there really is nothing like seeing a stadium-and-festival band in its primary element. Consequently, Kasabian gave only a taste of its live prowess this time out. Still, it was good while it lasted.