By Tegh Matharu
Ever since I was in high school, I have always been a Kasabian fan. The English outfit’s epic, roaring anthems such as Empire, Underdog, and Days are Forgotten coupled with their brooding dance melodies like Club Foot and Fire formed the sound of my teenage years. Their tough, ominous music and lyrics raging against the injustices suffered by underdogs everywhere helped me through many tough times and underscored many awesome moments in my life. Even in college, when whatever new FIFA game came out, it seemed there was always a Kasabian track included and during the end of long hard runs during cross-country season I would always end with “Underdog” on my trusty Zune.
With sonic magic reminiscent of Primal Scream and Curve along with the pub-rock swagger and scrappiness of Dr. Feelgood, Kasabian became and continues to be a band the world never tire of hearing. With each album Kasabian released, I always hoped I would have the chance to see them live and often considered the idea of buying a plane ticket to catch them at one of their many sold-out festival shows in the UK. This past Tuesday, that almost ten-year desire finally was fulfilled at the House of Blues.
Before Kasabian took the stage, they were joined by their compatriots, the punk outfit, Slaves. Hailing from the “Garden of England”, Kent, the duo exploded onto the stage with all the vengeance and rage of punks from the seventies. Having never heard them before, one of my friends who was with me that night saw them play with the Buzzcocks the Saturday before. “Get ready.” She said, but nothing prepared me for their sound.
Led by an icon-in-the-making singer, the Popeye-like incendiary drummer Isaac Holman roared and sneered as he destroyed his drum set with the fury of a titan. He stormed across the stage as innumerable pairs of drumsticks flew from his hands into the back of the stage and into the crowd, while the guitarist Laurie Vincent tore through each riff as if he was Joe Strummer on White Riot. In them, it seemed every punk band in history manifested in their performance. I heard the rage of the Clash in their early days, the antagonism of the Stranglers, and of course, the hooligan spirit of the Cockney Rejects. However, as if hearing my thoughts, Holman leapt down from the stage and screamed, “We’re not Cockneys! WE’RE FROM KENT!”. Regardless of where they came from, Slaves embodied all of that classic punk sensibility and nowhere was this more evident than in their song, “Fuck the Hi-Hat” off of their album Take Control. They raged against the nay-sayers and of course, the current millennial unrest towards the older generation. Overall, Slaves were the biggest surprise of the night. They are the punk band our generation needs.
Soon after Slaves doused the fire from their set, the lights dimmed and then shone in a blinding haze upon the majesty that is Kasabian. Onto the stage strode the lead singer, Tom Meighan dressed in a white trench coat and sunglasses and soon after, appeared the shaggy-haired, dark visage of Sergio Pizzorno the guitarist. After strutting around the stage for a few seconds, Meighan kicked the set off with “Ill Ray (The King)” off of their newest album For Crying Out Loud, a number alternating between punchy dance themes and a soaring rock melody and then flowed into a set comprising material from 48:13, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and the rest of their early releases.
Although the band joked with the audience and had looked like they were enjoying themselves, Kasabian’s performance was hampered by some technical difficulties and ruined some moments that should have been when their set would hit its apogee. When the band began playing the distorted melody of “Underdog”, the anthem of Leicester after winning the Premier League in 2015, I was all set to go nuts, however some gaffe halted the song and forced them to start over.
“We bollocks’d that up!” Pizzorno exclaimed.
“We’re not on drugs! We swear!” Meighan chuckled.
With that, they tore into a rather uneasy version of “Underdog”, with the songs soon after feeling as if they were played a bit cautiously. However, that feeling quickly subsided when they started playing “Club Foot”. The rough, and relentless anthem that cemented their place among the great British bands re-oriented the bands momentum and regained whatever disaffection the audience might have had during “Underdog”. The song, with its heavy Primal Scream influence, became a dark epic when Kasabian played it at the House. Everyone in the audience lost their minds, mine included. Every song they played afterwards was fantastic. However when they played “Empire” my first and favorite Kasabian song, the rolling guitar melody that cemented the song’s greatness and underscored the seriousness of the song’s anti-war lyrics, “Stop, I said, ‘It’s happening again!’ We’re all wasting away!” was a murmur. The song’s epic sweep was nowhere to be found.
But despite the problems with “Underdog” and “Empire”, Kasabian’s set was filled with some standouts. “LSF” for instance had the entire audience going nuts while “Bless This Acid House” called forth memories of that old Manchester scene of the Stone Roses and the Charlatans. When they returned for their encore, Kasabian brought their set to a torrential finish with their bouncing, punchy song “Fire”, which I believe was the best song of the set. The band pushed forth unbowed by the problems, and even called out a guy in the crowd who was wearing a Newcastle shirt (Howay the Lads!). Individually, Meighan and Pizzorno switched between vocal duties with both of them turning in brilliant performances. A few problems notwithstanding, Kasabian put in one of the best shows I’ve seen.
In the end, Kasabian fulfilled my teenage expectations. They played a fantastic set that showed how worthy they are of being perhaps one of the best British bands currently playing. Although marred by some technical gaffes, Kasabian’s rally during “Club Foot” re-oriented them and kept their set from sinking into the depths of the disaster that was Liam Gallagher’s show at Park West. Slaves, though, proved to be the biggest surprise of the night as their relentless and angry two-man sound in some ways upstaged Kasabian. All in all, it was a fantastic show at a fantastic venue and I went home extremely satisfied that my one of my teenage hopes has been fulfilled.
For more on Kasabian, click here
For photos from the House of Blues show, click here
Set List: Kasabian live in Chicago at House of Blues 09-19-17
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