Kasabian – Live at Rock City, Nottingham review by EJ Scanlan
2020 was a weird year, it was a time when the world shut down, live events were cancelled and Kasabian went from the most iconic band on the indie scene to everyone hating them overnight, as frontman Tom Meighan left for band for incredibly questionable reasons that we won’t be discussing here. This led to fellow band member Serge Pizzorno announcing that they’ll be carrying on Kasabian without Meighan, a questionable but incredibly brave move.
Last week, the Glastonbury and stadium headliners kicked off their sell-out UK Tour across intimate venues all around the UK, and tonight, they stop off at Nottingham’s Rock City. I’m wanting to see how Pizzorno can take Meighan’s place as the frontman, what direction the band go in without their iconic former bandmate, and how exactly the crowd react to the new era of Kasabian…
The band came on with “Club Foot” and began their Rock City show with a bang, and the first thing I noticed was how Serge gave off real energy, like a genuine frontman, instantly putting former leader Tom Meighan to shame. The energy he gave was unreal, and the result of that was the craziest I’ve ever seen Rock City, and I’ve been to many shows there in the past. Kasabian has never sounded better. They then went on to perform “Ill Ray (The King)”, the opener to their latest record released in 2017, “For Crying Out Loud”, and that was surprisingly even stronger. Chills ran down my whole body as the crowd screamed the lyrics as the rowdy guitar chords were played. The energy felt insane, so much beer and alcohol was thrown around the venue as the bat-shit crazy mosh pits rippled across the venue, possessing almost the entire 2,000 strong crowd. The instrumentation on this band is amazing and is the strongest live technical ability I’ve seen all year.
Those mosh pits continued as Serge got out his guitar to perform “Underdog”, where a fan raised a Leicester City Football Club flag in the air, incredibly resonant of Glastonbury and their shows in Leicester’s King Power Stadium. The lighting around the auditorium filled with the wonderful poker-dot stage being the highlight of all of it. Towards the end, Pizzorno gave a remarkable build-up that worked so well as a result, making the crowd the loudest I’ve ever heard inside any venue I’ve ever been to, even with my low-quality earplugs in. More impressively, the crowd began to chant “Sergio” incredibly loudly, which was continued throughout the 16 track setlist. It was beautiful to witness. Then going into “You’re In Love With A Psycho”, Kasabian expertly brought a sense of euphoria to the room that was completely inescapable. The music they played sounded fantastic and embodied the original recording so well, but it didn’t sound boring either to the point they were still sounded live.
It was at this point when frontman Serge Pizzorno said his first words of the concert, and those words were: “It’s mosh pit time”, which got the biggest cheer and provoked an astounding circle of people to clear about a quarter of the venue out of space, then triggering a huge reaction and the most sensational and violent mosh pit I’ve ever seen as the first millisecond of “bumblebee” was played. The adrenaline in the room was fuelling second by second that couldn’t even be explained by the people who were there (I was and this is the best you’re gonna get!). For the final section of the song, backing singer and multi-instrumentalist, Rob Harvey took the lead on the vocals who also did a superb job on the big climax. “Shoot The Runner” played next, which gave me a real connotation: whatever Serge wants something from the crowd, they’ll give it to him, way more than he bargained for, in the best possible way, leading him to say “that was fucking amazing. Thank you” straight after the song had finished. The mosh was as intense as ever, the band were on peak once again, I couldn’t have had a better experience hearing this track live. Going into “stevie”, everyone was hyped up and amped ready to go. There was no time to breathe, this show has an energy that just doesn’t die, which not a lot of acts can pull off as well as Kasabian did tonight. Every single person in the room was screaming their heads off to the lyrics, the instrumentation on stage sounded as phenomenal as always, especially for a song as complex as that, they pulled it off expertly. “I.D.” was performed next and that continued to get everyone screaming, dancing, jumping and moshing, everyone had their hands in the air and it was a beautiful moment to be a part of. The interlude before the track was elegantly composed, showcasing the band’s versatility, and going into the song itself, you had Serge giving us a performance you could only really see live on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, and the track’s instrumentation sounding so masterful, it makes the original version sound obsolete.
And you thought that was the highlight? Oh no, there’s WAY more. “Pinch Roller” began to play, one of the iconic interludes from Kasabian’s iconic 2004 self-titled debut album, which sounded great, but nothing compared to the song it transitioned into, my favourite track the Leicester band have ever done: “treat”, from their sensational fifth album, “48:13”, which was a track I never expected them to perform, so it was even better when they did. The beautiful guitar work was excellent; adding something original and new to the track, but the synthesisers worked a treat (pun intended) and were the real standout of the set. The collaboration within the band during this song was at its zenith. Pizzorno blending “treat”’s distinctive sound with the lyrics of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Eurythmics was a stroke of genius. It got everyone dancing along and vibing all the way through. I was absolutely amazed.
As the crowd applauded enormously after that incredible section, Serge then made a request to the crowd: “jump for my two boys”, who were both in the venue that night, and of course, they were happy to oblige, and as soon as “Empire” started playing, everyone in the entire place jumped as high and as euphorically as possible, with that jumping turning to moshing as those exemplary guitar notes were played by the newest member of Kasabian, Tim Carter. The crowd went wild for this, and even by hearing the original version, it’s not hard to see why. Fading into “Switchblade Smiles”, the bassline tore through the room, making it shake as if the world was about to collapse. It sounded sensational, with the live production and instrumentation being some of the strongest I’ve ever heard. It’s strong praise from me, but it’s thoroughly deserved.
Serge took to the mic before playing their final song before the encore to say: “to everyone in this building, thank you so much for being here, thank you so much for your support”, which was met with roaring applause from the crowd. From one side of things, that could sound like what a band would usually say at the end of every show, but this felt different. This felt like a genuine thank you from Serge to the fans to say, “thank you for sticking by us”. As I discussed briefly at the beginning of the article, after the events that occurred last year with former frontman, Tom Meighan (if you don’t know, look it up, I won’t be going over that here), Kasabian was in an incredibly vulnerable place in their career as Meighan had completely tarnished the band’s reputation. There are still lots of fans of Kasabian that refused to go and see them on this tour because those fans support Meighan instead of the full band and their decision to remove him from it. The sold-out tour and the incredible crowd Rock City gave us that night proved that there are a lot of people that still support Kasabian, to me, deep down, it sounded like that’s why Serge was thanking us. It was a really heartfelt moment. Afterwards, they then went on to play “Vlad The Impaler”, where once again, the instrumentation was great and the crowd loved it, and the track sounded like there were some more electronic elements in this live version, which is interesting, to say the least, and I’ll come back to that point shortly.
The first track from the encore was “Bless This Acid House”, where everyone was screaming and jumping along to every single lyric. Even though I dislike this song of theirs, the live version sounded elite. This was then followed by a shorter version of “Happiness”, which was the band’s only softer song in their setlist, allowing the crowd to catch their breath and singalong to this gorgeous song, and this then faded into “L.S.F.”, which got everyone screaming and moshing once again, but even more so. This version went on for a solid eight minutes, almost triple the original recorded version’s time. The last five minutes were of the crowd singing the track’s iconic tune, with the band milking all the opportunities possible to get everyone’s adrenaline pumping and start another mosh pit. And finally, Kasabian performed “Fire”, because they know it’s a crime if they don’t! The track itself was performed masterfully with every single person in the crowd singing along, as the tune is so infectious, to then go hard on the spell bounding chorus. The elation was indescribable and it translated so well. “Fire”’s final bridge had yet another electronic sound while the crowd chanted “here we, here we, here we fucking go”, which added a new sense of energy to the set just before closing with one of the biggest endings I’ve seen to a set in a very long time. It was fantastic.
Overall, Kasabian has never sounded better. The Glastonbury feel, the remarkable lighting, the stand-out stage design, all of it works incredibly well. Serge Pizzorno makes the greatest frontman, maybe one of the best British frontmen living today, his performance was mesmerising and transcendent, and the band are the strongest they have ever been. The subtle electronica inspiration, especially prominent in Kasabian’s second act is the perfect transition for fans between their old indie-rock sound to their new synth-rock atmospheric sound (if they don’t go in this direction, I’ll be incredibly surprised). Kasabian has proved that they can outlive the controversy surrounding last year’s ordeal, they do have a fanbase out there, they’re getting critical acclaim (even from me!) and that the Kasabian we know is gone, but the brand new era is coming, and it’s looking brighter than anything they’ve ever done before.
- Club Foot [Kasabian]
- Ill Ray (The King) [For Crying Out Loud]
- Underdog [West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum]
- You’re In Love With A Psycho [For Crying Out Loud]
- bumblebee [48:13]
- Shoot The Runner [Empire]
- stevie [48:13]
- I.D. [Kasabian]
- treat [48:13]
- Empire [Empire]
- Switchblade Smiles [Velociraptor!]
- Vlad The Impaler [West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum]
- Bless This Acid House [For Crying Out Loud]
- Happiness [West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum]
- L.S.F. [Kasabian]
- Fire [West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum]