Kasabian, Scala, London

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The Independent Culture

Music lore suggests that the country house is where rock aristocracy goes to seed.

Music lore suggests that the country house is where rock aristocracy goes to seed. Judging by Kasabian's performance, though, living in a Rutland farmhouse for the past year has done little harm to the hunger of these lads from Leicester. In the space of 50 minutes, the band zipped through the bulk of their self-titled debut album; by the end, they were spent, and the audience was sated.

Their barnstorming performance should have surprised anyone expecting a baggy revival, of which movement Kasabian have been touted as leaders. True, they mix jangly guitars with funky beats, and Tom Meighan's sneer owes much to a legion of Mancunian front men, yet much else sets them apart. While the Madchester bands feigned indifference to showmanship and professionalism, Kasabian were eager to deliver.

Meighan set the agenda, in a white Jesus smock, at one stage spreading out his arms in a distinctly Christlike pose. Nor was there any Ecstasy-fuelled hedonism. Furrowing their collective brows, the band concentrated on honing a fearsome live performance that has seen them rise up festival bills since opening this year's Glastonbury.

Shrouded in darkness, their drummer laid down an uncannily precise impression of the fierce beats once programmed by The Chemical Brothers. Meanwhile, Chris Edwards's bass pulsed in the manner of Mani's - Primal Scream vintage, mind; not Stone Roses. And, despite having written the songs, the tall and rangy Sergio Pizzorno had little to say as he flitted between guitars, backing vocals and synthesiser. This was less summer of love, more the paranoia and dark thoughts inspired by dodgy pills and the Criminal Justice Act.

Obvious highlights were their chart hits, the rabble-rousing "L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)" and a muscular "Club Foot", what the Roses' Second Coming album could and should have sounded like. Elsewhere, Kasabian demonstrated the strength and depth of their album. Shorn of its riot-commentary samples, the former cut-and-paste job "Ovary Stripe" was reborn as a menacing instrumental.

New tracks showed that the band could become heavier yet: the buzzsaw guitars in "55" were simply breathtaking. Even the band's slower numbers, a blissful "I.D." and a numbed "Test Transmission", in which Pizzorno took charge with a laconic vocal in the style of Lou Reed, were intensely vital.

If he was the brains of the band, Meighan was its heart. The singer rarely shifted from the microphone stand, but his body vibrated constantly. A former cinema in King's Cross, the Scala is not blessed with a large stage, and at the close of the set, he dived into the seething mosh pit, as if being hemmed in was too much to bear.

Such energy is enough to make Kasabian an important presence, though eventually questions will be asked about the nonsensical sloganeering that passes for songs. There are only so many "I'm a Messiah for the animals" lines that can be passed over. Any band that refers to letter bombs and terrorists will have to justify such strident imagery. Pizzorno needs a focus for all his passion, but, for now, we can enjoy them kicking out the jams with no definite aim.

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