Kaiser Chiefs at the O2 Arena, London: Entertaining set that relies on nostalgia

Ricky Wilson shines bright as ever as the band’s enigmatic frontman

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Kaiser Chiefs, as frontman Ricky Wilson is keen to remind his audience, have been performing for a long, long time.

The O2 Arena may seem an unlikely venue for an indie band whose career has been light on hits for the best part of a decade now, but – largely owing to a sympathetic audience who appear to have been following the band since their mid-2000s heyday – they turn in a well-received performance tonight.

Their tried-and-tested formula of alternating between singles and album tracks (with an occasional fan-pleasing b-side) is present and correct, as is Wilson’s endless energy. Indeed, Wilson shines as brightly as ever as the band’s enigmatic frontman. He’s not the most proficient singer, but then no-one was ever a fan of Kaiser Chiefs for their technical excellence.

His self-deprecating sense of humour occasionally tips over into desperation, but for the most part is pretty amusing. He bounds around the stage and out into the crowd, performing a couple of numbers from a raised central podium, ensuring everyone has a close-up view at some point during the show.

Of particular note tonight are the visuals accompanying each song. Drawing heavily from pop artists for inspiration, they are bright, bold, imaginative, and genuinely enjoyable to watch, elevating tracks that may otherwise have fallen a little flat. A case in point is “Good Clean Fun” – on its own, a relatively unremarkable cut from latest album “Stay Together”.

However, the accompanying visual of the Kaisers in various guises, most memorably Wilson vacuuming while wearing a dress, in homage to Freddie Mercury, raises a chuckle. It’s silly, but it keeps the audience engaged to the end of the song.

The set list is largely an exercise in nostalgia. Yes, they do perform some tracks from their latest release, but about half the music is drawn from their commercially successful first two albums, “Employment”and “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” – with precious few songs taken from their other releases.

They know their audience, of course – the biggest cheer is reserved for early single “I Predict a Riot”, while closing number “Oh My God”, complete with confetti and pyrotechnics, ensures the evening ends on a high.

It’s not a resounding success. Their recent material is of variable quality and, besides “Coming Home”, there isn’t really anything else from the last few albums that generates a great deal of enthusiasm; Wilson’s voice also quite frequently misses the mark.

Yet there are plenty of enjoyable moments and the quality of Wilson’s showmanship ensures that, even when the quality of the music dips, the audience is entertained throughout.

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