First Night: Kasabian, Brixton Academy, London

Self-aggrandising and gobby but Meighan's band win people's vote
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The Independent Culture

Foolish, perhaps, to expect largesse from a band named after Charles Manson's getaway driver, but the indie rock/electronica act Kasabian dish the dirt on a regular basis. The Kooks? "Biker Grove with leather jackets." Pete Doherty? "He'll go down in history as a tramp, not a poet." To make matters worse, Kasabian are such a gobby, self-aggrandising bunch that their tuppence worth sometimes grates. The front-man, Tom Meighan, recently claimed his band's new album Empire was as good as Oasis's Definitely Maybe, while his guitarist bandmate Serge Pizzorno ranks it alongside The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed.

To be fair, Empire is a quantum leap forward from Kasabian's eponymous 2004 debut. Still, for those of us who can hear how much "Sun Rise Light Flies" owes to Noel Gallagher and the Chemical Brothers' "Setting Sun", it can feel like a familiar trip with slightly different scenery. That every generation wants its own hedonistic indie heroes can only help Kasabian's case, and with the new album's title track entering the UK singles chart at number nine, and this gig reportedly selling out in 10 minutes, they clearly have the people's vote.

When they applaud their audience before it applauds them, it helps cements Kasabian's proletarian band status. It also results in them winning the Brixton crowd over before the opening number, "Shoot The Runner", has reached its first chorus. "We've just come back from a gig in Ibiza and we've still got the shakes!" Meighan says further in. In Kasabian-land, where dilated pupils are commonplace, this is a revelation that is easy to interpret.

One thing the Leicester-based outfit has learned from dance-music culture is the worth of a good "drop-down" section. They excel at such sonic pit-stops, taking their audience to the brink of euphoria, then prodding them into a blissful abyss with another yobbish, chant-along chorus. "Reason" works like this, and so does "Cut-Off". Through it all, Meighan comes on like an over-zealous audience member who has somehow managed to breach the stage and commandeer a microphone. Subconciously or otherwise, it's that old "mirror your audience if you want them to love you" trick - and he's excellent at it.

Kasabian are that comparatively rare thing: a band that is much better live than in the studio. The jam-like, cut and paste approach of new songs such as "By My Side" and "Empire" lacks subtlety on CD, but in a live context these become anthems. Meighan is still having it large as the closing double-whammy of "Club Foot" and "Stuntman" sees the Academy's famously pliable floor take a right old pummelling. Primal Scream have done this kind of thing just as well if not better, but unlike Kasbian, their time is not now.

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