To the haters, Kasabian are painfully unfashionable, desperately unoriginal, early 90s Madchester revivalists, and arrogant cocks to boot. To their many fans, they are quite simply the greatest British band of the day. As we contemplate this apparent paradox while awaiting the Kasabian live experience - a special one-off at the 500-capacity Garage for competition winners more accustomed to seeing their heroes playing arenas - we notice the lead singer is sitting at a table across from us in the pub. "He looks different in real life", someone notes."Yeah" agrees another. "Smaller. And a lot less of a cock." Indeed, as we watch over the next half hour Tom Meighan comes across as a rather sweet and unassuming guy, polite and courteous as successive fans interrupt his conversation to have their pictures taken with him.
Though the band are in their mid-twenties, the crowd of uber-fans seems mostly older, and the truly young are conspicuously absent. The smattering of celebrities present (Dec of Ant & Dec) only serves to confirm the impression that Kasabian aren’t the cutting edge of cool. The crowd are strangely subdued at first, apparently bewildered and shell-shocked by the almost surreal experience of seeing so big a band in so small a venue, too busy taking pictures to join in. The band are bemused by this response, and Tom’s stadium-style methods of stirring the audience (‘everyone put your hands in the air’) seem inappropriate for the circumstances. But as they rattle through classic sing-a-pogo-along track after track (Shoot the Runner, Empire, Club Foot), the crowd begins to relax, and before long they go mental, and we're joining in the pogo-ing and moshing at the front, surrounded by joyous, sweaty faces. After a short set of greatest hits, topped by Fire and LSF, we join the crowd of wide-eyed punters spilling out on to a damp Islington street, feeling for all the world like we’ve just had a collective outer-body experience.
Cocks - no. Derivative and unoriginal - no. The truth is that the latest album is more experimental, braver and better than anything they have done before. They are more original than they are given credit for, and while some songs continue to nod towards the likes of Primal Scream, the Stone Roses or the Inspiral Carpets, these are great bands and Kasabian worthy successors. Are they deeply unfashionable? Probably, yeah. But don’t be ashamed. Like Kasabian. We dare you. Sometimes the in-crowd are wrong.
By Sam Lawson