Kasabian are a great show band. They show well. They perform well. They look like great rock superstars. And they pretty much rocked down the 9:30 Club Tuesday night in a stellar display of musical muscle, also sounding, not just looking, like space rock deities.
Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of Kasabian is that they seamlessly utilize all six of their members. In other cases, I have found more band members to distract from concert performances, but with Kasabian, everything flowed and everyone had a function. The band made impressively versatile use of its two vocalists — Tom Meighan and Sergio Pizzorno. Meighan appeared as an earnest, sincere singer putting his heart and soul on display in songs of lost love and dogged determination. Pizzorno growls and howls a bit more like a long-haired rock icon as he pounds on his guitar. The effect is not dissimilar than watching a young Mick Jagger and Keith Richards team up and trade off.
With their blend of psychedelic and space rock, Kasabian of course sound nothing like the Rolling Stones but instead evoke thoughts of the Happy Mondays with their funky loose jams. As I write that, it seems a bit odd to compare Kasabian to the Mondays as the younger band has far surpassed their forebears in content, substance and performance. Seeing Kasabian perform makes you understand why they are consistently nominated as best live act at the Brit Awards year after year.
That said, I personally found Kasabian to provide diminishing returns for casual music listening pleasure over the years until their latest fourth album — a masterful record that grows their signature sound into more traditional pop songs. Kasabian grabbed my attention when I first heard them performed by a particularly leggy local lady DJ at a club night called Trash at Felix long ago with the sweeping pulsing sounds of their self-titled first album and songs like “Club Foot.” The dramatic layers of “Club Foot” and its refrain of “I tell you I want you/I’ll tell you I need you/The blood ain’t on my hands/Just wanted you near me” perfectly captures the desire in the best Kasabian songs. (Boy, did I feel that.)
But it’s their latest, Velociraptor!, that really impresses the hell out of me. On their fourth and, in my opinion, best album, Kasabian refine their psychedelia into searing pop gems moving a bit away from the Happy Mondays and more into territory familiar to Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Thus you get more succinct pop pleasures such as the sad reflections of “Days Are Forgotten” (which served as the concert opener), the post-punkish fun romp of “Velociraptor!” (which is gonna find you, gonna kill you, and gonna eat you!), and the triumphant smash “Re-Wired” (with its vision of renewal and reinvention).
As Kasabian are a fantastic live band, songs that previously did not grab me from their second and third albums, Empire and West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum respectively, came together in a way they had not previously. They added clever touches like blending the catchy “Thick as Thieves” from WRPLA with “People Are Strange” by The Doors. Their 16-song set paid equal respect to their first three albums, taking the audience on an indie rock odyssey through buoyant guitar riffs, snappy drums, and rolling keyboards.
I’m not the biggest fan of long live jams, but Kasabian are talented enough to make me believe I’m listening to something special when they jam out. They closed their main set with LSF (Lost Souls Forever), electronically jamming out but doing so with versatility greater than lesser jam bands who are content to play the same riffs to stoners at outdoor festivals. Kasabian rather kept you awake and alive, inviting you to ride along on the voyage of the song, which never became dull. Not only did Kasabian play their instruments amazingly well, but the band also seemed to play the audience as well, extolling it as it swayed, rippled, and moshed as Pizzorno called upon the sold-out crowd to dance much in the same way as a good conductor would command an orchestra.
I was one of a group of six gents attending the concert and while we all embraced the band to varying degrees, we agreed the show was absolutely terrific. And Kasabian actually are likely to get much better as they swing across the country to land in California for Coachella in mid-April. Absolutely catch them if you can. It had been so long since they toured the United States that I feared they had come undone, but they returned to hit me harder — even faster than before!