LIVE REVIEW: KASABIAN & THE VACCINES @ HORDERN PAVILION (24.01.2012)

Since forming in early 2010 the constant question that’s been asked about the opening act is “What did you expect from The Vaccines?” Well, if the series of punchy songs, meteoric rise and many celebrity fans are anything to go by, then the answer to the name of their debut album would be fun and exuberant guitar music. And their 45-minute set at the Hordern Pavilion was really no exception.

The two lots of seats on either side of the venue had been cordoned off but it was not like the kids and older punters were gonna need ‘em because tonight was not about music to sit and “chill” to. It came as no surprise that the group rolled on-stage to another band asking a question, The Ramones with “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” The sound these four London lads make is certainly influenced by the American punk rockers but often theirs is extended with additional flourishes and embellishments taking in their other influences like early rock and roll, pop and dirty guitar riffs.

‘Blow It Up’ was the first of their rocking tunes that shared a few things in common with Franz Ferdinand’s brand of guitar music that you can also dance to. At barely 1:30 ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was a Ramones-like, fireball of energy that was over in a flash. It definitely left people wanting more and they received new single, ‘Tiger Blood’ to ail their troubles.

Frontman, Justin Young may have been playing a guitar that Jack White could have used but during ‘A Lack Of Understanding’ he’d set this aside for just a mic and the opportunity to belt out some mean vocals. His stage performance actually seemed a lot like The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas as he shuffled around the stage, casually put his foot on the monitors and sang a sweet pop song with just the right amount of melancholy before the gleeful, ‘Wetsuit’.

There were some blistering guitar riffs that call to mind guitar-playing legends like Thurston Moore and J. Mascis and fit with the subject matter of the offered song (‘Teenage Icons’). Guitarist, Freddie Cowan (the brother of Tom from The Horrors) and bassist, Árni Hjörvar joined with Young to strike some Status Quo-like poses before the romper-stomper, ‘Under Your Thumb’.

The remaining tracks: ‘All In White,’ ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ and ‘Nørgaard’ whizzed by like a cloud of dust but it was ‘If You Wanna’ that proved a real highlight. The A-grade party hit is certainly the closest thing they’ve written to resemble perfection. Unfortunately, it also feels like a lot of their other tunes are imitations of this or at the very least borrow one or two ideas from it. It may be a winning formula (and heck, some people have built careers on a song) but it does leave you wanting a little something more. In short, The Vaccines (like the Sydney punks and slackers Straight Arrows and Step-Panther, respectively) aren’t out to save the world but what they do offer is pretty solid, feel-good party anthems and they do this all in spades.

Now make no mistake, Kasabian are one self-assured band. Confident and at times a little too cocky, they’ve seen groups like Oasis implode before their very eyes but have also seized the opportunity to step-up to the plate with their own goods. From the get-go they were out to tease and gee up the crowd. But the guys ticked all the boxes when it came to rock star cliché. The boys were either clad in black, wearing Bono-esque sunglasses indoors (and at night) and then there was the oh-so-subtle plug for their merch by wearing your own band t-shirt. Nice.

Those Gallagher brothers could’ve actually written opener, ‘Days Are Forgotten.’ Although this would have had to be in much happier times and they’d have had to use some of the guitar-work from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This number was a dark and black one to precede the rainbow fun of ‘Shoot The Runner’ because it proved as colourful as the Empire single’s fabulous, animated video clip.

The title track from their most recent effort, Velociraptor! was shaggy and rough – much like their guitarist Sergio Pizzorno and like him, it too got a good reaction from the crowd. But this, like many of the numbers tonight felt rather contrived. Singer, Tom Meighan kept bellowing out variations of “Put your hands up” and “Sydney!” or telling us that he wanted to see some pandemonium and the like. At times this got the desired result but at other moments it felt rather forced, as if people were only doing this because they were being yelled to. And this was not helped by the wankfest that was Meighan reading out an inappropriate note to Pizzorno that could’ve been made up for all we know.

Like their fellow countrymen, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian wear their love of football on their sleeves and ‘Underdog’ really is like the latter’s answer to the former band’s ‘Never Miss A Beat’. A broody anthem that is also a lot like Placebo and modern-day Depeche Mode, Meighan used it to promote some loutish behaviour with some of his own over-the-top showmanship and clapping. It seemed like a paint-by-the-numbers guide to entertaining and felt a lot like that scene in Almost Famous when the ‘F**king lead singer’ talks about when they perform and if he’s sees someone who isn’t getting off then he damn well makes sure that he gets them off.

Of course, hooliganism can also descend into full-blown anarchy and craziness and that’s not something this band needs to necessarily promote. For a start, they’re named after a Charles Manson cult member and they’ve had an album called West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. It’s no surprise then that in ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ various members of the audience decided to stage their own mini-revolution by smoking or the dozens of others that decided this was an opportune time to get on the shoulders of a friend for some vertical pump action. This prompted Meighan to christen ‘Re-wired’ as the “Girlfriends on shoulders” song and at a later point three wags took this to new extremes by making up an almost totem-pole of wiggling bodies and it was bloody amazing they didn’t hurt themselves or the unfortunates around them.

Before ‘I.D.’ Pizzorno dashed across the stage in what seemed like the 300th effort to get people totally wired à la The Fall while ‘I Hear Voices’ was the embodiment of some other sounds from Manchester. At times it was like the Happy Mondays and at other moments like their one-time labelmates, New Order, as the keys swirled before the power and volume that was ‘Take Aim’. For ‘La Fée Verte’ Pizzorno would pull out an acoustic guitar but this ballad didn’t prove all that different from one of their standard rock numbers.

Messer Pizzorno would lead ‘LSF’ before the sentimental vibe and innocence of ‘Goodbye Kiss’. A rousing end to the main set preceded the start of the encore where ‘Switchblade Smiles’ saw the first crowd surfer proper. It seemed by now the audience had really warned up and were in unity. They cut loose with the call and response of the electric noise-fueled ‘Vlad The Impaler’. But it was ‘Fire’ that was the biggie and so much harder, faster and stronger then the rest. It was a fitting way for the assembled throng to unify in ecstasy and see out the 90-minute rock set in style.

The guys had put on a satisfying rock show filled with bravado, bona fide crowd pleasers and numbers big and brash enough to fill a stadium or two. The kids had jumped, skipped and danced, sometimes through being forced but more often because of the drive and speed of the music, which boasted dense percussion and power chords aplenty. It was erratic and ecstatic and the sound was rather spot-on given the cavernous nature of the Hordern. Kasabian know all about reckless abandon and what needs to be done to get people there and unlike the wiped out velociraptor they sing of, this expedition proved rock is far from extinct, even if you have to fight for it.

Originally published on 27 January 2012 at the following website: http://www.pagesdigital.com/review-kasabian-the-vaccines-hordern-pavilion/

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