These are tough times for the beery, leery, all-male indie-rock band. At a time when women continue to dominate the charts and synth-pop remains the overwhelming sound of choice, such acts have rarely been less fashionable than they are now.
None are more aware of this than Kasabian who, having once appeared the rightful scions of Oasis, blustering and swaggering their way towards the limelight, have in recent years morphed into something altogether more artful and interesting.
Thus, trumpet fanfares, pulsating electronic interludes, a sudden, terrific divergence from “Fastfuse” into Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (best known for its inclusion on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack), and cries from singer Tom Meighan to “get yer dancin’ shoes on” punctuate a performance which sends ripples of delight through existing fans and even wins over doubters (OK, me).
Yes, there are the monster riffs, the huge choruses explicitly composed for stadium sing-a-longs (“Take Aim”, “LSF” “Club Foot”), humdrum lyrics which, on “La Fee Verte”, include an unambiguous mention of “Lucy in the sky” that would make the Gallaghers, if not a McCartney, swell with pride. And then there’s the crowd, awash with men between their early twenties and middle age, who express their adoration by stripping to their waists and flinging pints of beer at one another.
If there’s a primordial sort of appreciation at work in the mosh-pit, on stage the entertainment is of a more orchestrated variety, taking place under a giant arch of orange neon and flanked by screens showing freeze-frame pictures of the crowd filtered in red.
Vocals are split between Meighan and guitarist, songwriter and all-round brains of the operation Sergio Pizzorno. They are an odd couple: Sergio, a spidery-legged Noel Fielding-a-like in tight tiger-print top and feathered parker, and Meighan who arrives dressed in black and, were it not for his Bono-esque shades, might easily pass for a roadie. Both, however, offer a master-class in rock star charisma, rarely cracking a smile but forever gesturing for more cheering, more air-punching, more love.
This is a band of many layers and personalities. Of course, Kasabian are all about mass appeal and they are under no illusions as to the nature of their core audience. But musically they have managed to do the unachievable in bringing depth and texture to the arena rock experience. Long may they reign.
Touring until 31st December.