Ever since The White Stripes burst onto the scene with their unusual two-piece ‘just drums, guitar and vocals’ line-up, a number of bands have followed in their wake: Royal Blood, (why, thanks a lot, Meg and Jack), Drenge, (now you’re talking) and indeed tonight’s openers Slaves.
Introducing themselves as “a two piece boy band from the Garden of England”, they launch into 2015 single ‘Sockets’ with a rare ferocity, which remains for the whole set, save for the gentler ‘Photo Opportunity’ in which members of the audience are asked to dispense with their camera phones, which is a term not heard a lot these days, it has to be said. Slaves come across like the aforementioned Stripes crossed with Sleaford Mods, but perhaps without the knowing humour. One track starts like Napalm Death covering ELO‘s ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, which is obviously not a bad thing at all. Slaves are pretty serious.
Kasabian, on the other hand, are perhaps the most misunderstood band in Britain. Loathed by a section of music fans for being Oasis clones, in reality they have far more wit, more self-deprecation and more humour than the Gallaghers, and, it must be said, far more consistent albums. The two bands may share part of the same fan base, (and are both hugely popular), but that is very much where the similarities end.
As soon as their special guests leave the stage, a digital clock counts down from 30:00 minutes and the band take to the stage with a Kraftwerk-like punctuality and fly into new single ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ which happens to be the first track on this year’s For Crying Out Loud (2017), you know, the one with that cover. But for all the playfulness of that cover, (look it up if you haven’t seen it), the songs within are extremely strong and are received tonight with equal affection to the older, more well-known tracks.
‘Eez-eh’ is thrown in as early as the third song and still sounds utterly irresistible, the stage bathed in the neon pink of its parent album 48:13‘s artwork and the huge crowd, who have battled through the ice and snow of a fierce Birmingham night to be here, go crazy.
The new album is well-represented, but a nicely paced set list blends in the recent tracks with fan favourites such as ‘Underdog’ and ‘Shoot The Runner’ which is presented as a celebratory glam stomp. The latter perfectly demonstrates the chemistry between main men Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno, who bounce off each other brilliantly throughout the course of the evening.
New album highlight ‘Wasted’ is introduced as “a love song” and features an excellent brass section, while ‘U-Boat’ from 2004’s eponymous debut has Serge on acoustic guitar and lead vocal duties. It’s a lovely contrast with the more upbeat moments.
‘Club Foot’ predictably squeezes yet more energy from the audience, while epic dance track ‘Treat’ from 2014 whirls around the cavernous auditorium for a good eight minutes or more. 2006’s Top Ten smash ‘Empire’ still sounds thrillingly like The Fall and is one of two big hits from the band to feature tempo and time signature changes within the song. Try doing that and making a bona fide Top Ten anthem. Then try doing it again. Not Eez-eh.
A gospel choir is an inspired addition to proceedings and they punctuate a fantastic version of new album closer ‘Put Your Life On It’ and stick around to help out with a euphoric ‘LSF (Lost Souls Forever)’ before they and the band leave the stage.
A triple-header encore of ‘Comeback Kid’, ‘Vlad The Impaler’ and a spirited finale of the band’s biggest hit ‘Fire’ sends the audience back into the Birmingham cold with warm hearts and smiles on their faces.