The only suspicion that dogged Kaiser Chiefs rise to stadium success last year was that they wanted it far too much.
Lead singer Ricky Wilson's notorious joke that he would pleasure a tramp to reach the top unfairly haunts him, but the Kaisers' career-crowning Alexandra Palace shows confirmed that this was a man greedy for stardom. Once their debut album Employment sold almost three million copies and "I Predict a Riot" gained the meaning-scrambling ubiquity of a great hit single, that the limelight was his for the taking.
Wisely, his band have instead stepped back. The forthcoming second album Yours Truly, Angry Mob emphasises the indie values of intelligence, doubt, failure, melancholy and humour which Employment's eager melodies hid. It's not a record to make them bigger; just one to let them survive as themselves.
They spent the morning of this one-off gig near their Leeds home having a football kickabout at Doncaster Football Ground. As heavy snow covers that town's leisure centre, the roar of the Yorkshire faithful inside roots them still further.
Still, Wilson's first act is to cup his ear, to catch that acclaim. And as new single "Ruby" triggers massed, pumped fists, you know that, for Britain's slickest stadium subversives, not that much has changed.
Wilson nimbly sprints across the stage like a hyperactive ballerina, asEmployment favourites "Every Day I Love You Less And Less" and "Born To Be A Dancer" rise to relentless climaxes. The former pleading assertion - "and my parents love me" - nods to the Kaisers secret suspicions and oddness.
The new "Heat Dies Down", about romantic evasion and exploitation, and "Highroyds", a punkishly aggressive memoir of, and kiss-off to, a housing estate from their youth, make this more naked. Old hits "Modern Way" brings their contradictions to the boil. Running on a smooth bass groove, with a swift, sure chorus, it plays like a triumphalist anthem for their generation. Perhaps that's why Wilson enunciates its assault on their avarice - "I will stop at nothing to get what I want" - with such a sinister smile.
Social comment is at the fore for the main show's finish. "Everything Is Average Nowadays" has its attack on the relentless superficiality of modern media culture blunted by the Kaiser Chiefs closeness to their subject - spiky, but still mainstream.
"The Angry Mob's" disgust with scared conformity prompted by papers such as the The Daily Mail is similarly short on real bile. In between, "I Predict a Riot's" documenting of the mundane violence haunting Saturday night city centres briefly regains its electric, snapshot power. But it's greater potency, as a hijacked, joyful soundtrack to that thuggery, and as a pop classic too explosive to be reduced to mere meanings, carries the day.
For all their intelligence, Kaiser Chiefs are too much a part of an indie generation lacking any socio-political rudder to really rebel against anything.
They encore with "Na Na Na Na Naah", which is about bouncing crowds and bellowed choruses. That, coupled with a dash of subversive wit, is their real, considerable achievement.Reuse content