Music Critic Luke Cookson reviews Kasabian’s concert in Birmingham, praising how Serge Pizzorno has taken on the role of frontman in a new era for the band
Having taken the mantle of Kasabian frontman, after the sacking of Tom Meighan, Serge Pizzorno put on a pulse raising display at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham. After having been rocked by a powerful vocal performance from Alex Moore of the Lathums, Kasabian were beckoned to the stage by the rapturous chanting of “Sergio!” It was clear immediately that Pizzorno had been fully embraced by fans as a natural frontman.
Pizzorno swaggered onto the stage to the pumping drums of their new track ‘Rocket Fuel,’ adorned in a bombastic parker jacket. The energy of the song set the fuse of the jostling crowds who exploded into action as the iconic riff of ‘Club Foot’ resounded through the arena. Kasabian’s live performances seemed historically to rely heavily on the chemistry between ex-lead singer Meighan and Pizzorno on lead guitar, begging the question of how well the new dynamic would play. However, as the audience chanted the chorus, any doubts over Pizzorno’s stage command were utterly erased. The vocal performance of ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ successfully delivered the iconic hooligan rock sound that Kasabian are renowned for.
By the third song, Pizzorno ditched the parker jacket revealing a colourful camo print which notably deviated from his classic dark look, perhaps symbolising his ascension to the band’s forefront. Kasabian contrasted the rough and gritty guitar and synths of ‘Underdog,’ one of their fan favourites, with the melodic track ‘Chemicals’ from the new album which, despite being so new, managed to get the entire arena singing.
Next came the synth-heavy funk of ‘eez eh’ which got the crowds bouncing around. This shortened version was blended seamlessly into the soft rock hit single ‘You’re in Love With a Psycho,’ from their 2017 album For Crying Out Loud. At this point Pizzorno encouraged the crowd to get on each other’s shoulders, creating a jungle of bodies all singing the chorus word for word. The atmosphere was ‘on point’ as Pizzorno remarked. Rather than fading out, the energy of the crowd was maintained by the unmistakable beat of ‘One More Time’ by Daft Punk, transforming the arena into a nightclub as the band and audience jumped together in harmony.
‘Shoot the Runner’ and ‘Stevie,’ two of my favourite tracks remain awesome live performances. ‘Shoot the Runner’ showed off the backing vocals of the new member, Robert Harvey, and the anthemic track ‘Stevie’ built into an epic maelstrom of jumping bodies and rhythmic clapping. As the noise calmed the band gathered under a bus stop brought on stage where they performed an acoustic rendition of ‘Processed Beats;’ one of the first songs written by Pizzorno. The acoustic segment went on to blend ‘Cutt Off’ with the Stone Roses’ ‘Waterfall,’ playing heavily into the band’s demographic.
Despite receiving mostly positive reviews, I was somewhat sceptical as to how well the songs from the new album, Alchemist’s Euphoria, would translate to a live performance. While the wave of energy certainly troughed for the new tracks, peaking back high for the classics, they fit well within the setlist and sounded excellent. ‘SCRIPTVRE’ stood out from the new tracks, combining elements of hip-hop with a booming bass that really filled the arena. Although, the sheer power of the guitar and bass meant the subtler elements of the track like the synth strings that close the final chorus are drowned out. The uniqueness of the track within Kasabian’s discography boldly reflects the band’s evolution post-Meighan and it was great to hear Pizzorno’s explorative sounds live.
Overall, Pizzorno seriously stepped-up and proved Kasabian are as strong as ever. The setlist was a definite crowd pleaser, with the band wisely opting to keep the new tracks to a minimum, ensuring the audience could enjoy the best of Kasabian. After briefly reflecting on the state of the country, Kasabian closed off with a climactic performance of ‘Fire’ leaving the crowd thunderstruck with electric euphoria, heralding the band’s new era.
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