TV talent show judge, radio presenter... and now pantomime act? Ricky Wilson has had a more varied CV than Andrea Leadsom, but returning to his main job as Kaiser Chiefs' frontman, he makes himself at home in a West End theatre more used to hosting Cats or Scrooge: The Musical.
“In 20 years I'll be in Guildford, in Aladdin, as Buttons,” he predicts. Post-Britpop's clown prince may confuse the magic-lamp finder with Cinders, but otherwise runs through the whole gamut of audience participation – clapping, “eh-ohs” and singalongs – bar chucking sweets at the stalls.
Looking emancipated now he is out of The Voice's chair and wearing a celebratory pink leather jacket, Wilson is back as the always mobile master of ceremonies – hanging from scaffolding at the rear of the stage, balancing on monitors and making up for the rest of his quintet's lack of presence. Twelve years on from debut single 'Oh My God', he also has a change in direction to contend with, as the Kaisers preview material from their forthcoming album, October's Stay Together, that pairs them with Girls Aloud (and New Order) producer Brian Higgins on a loved-up, more synth-based follow-up to 2014's bellicose Education, Education, Education & War.
The Kaisers make a good fist of bolting their trad guitars-and-keys onto the Xenomania studio wizard's Coldplay-style dance-pop; especially on single 'Parachute', which comes with added heft thanks to Vijay Mistry's thumping drums and the vocalist's full-blooded delivery. Though it is the similarly upbeat 'Hole In My Soul', mixing orchestral strings with Elland Road terrace chants, that could provide the Leeds group with their most infectious chorus since 'Ruby'. On the album's title track, bravely inserted at the beginning of the night, Wilson's croon lacks conviction over a Franz Ferdinand disco-punk beat, showing the group still adapting to an otherwise confident reboot.
A summery air of positivity around these new numbers provides a comforting balance to the Kaisers's more familiar picking at life's grim underbelly. Amid the foreboding headlines of post-Brexit chaos, the terrace chant of 'The Angry Mob' (“I can prove anything,” Wilson slyly intones) and even the educator-baiting call-and-response of 'Never Miss A Beat' sound more threatening than ever. Though such relevance appears far from Wilson's mind as he inserts the ear-worm chorus from 'Hole In My Soul' into extended closer 'Oh My God', before the consummate entertainer finishes off by firing confetti cannons.
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