Kasabian: Observations From The Front Lines

This past weekend at Coachella Kasabian completed their first North American tour since 2006. In just 6 weeks the band traveled over 9,400 miles around the US and Canada. They played 24 cities along the way, including the SXSW Festival in Austin, plus a 4,200 mile round trip from New York to the Vive Latino festival in Mexico City. For us the highlight was of course the gig at Seattle’s Showbox; it was well worth the more than five year wait…

Before I get any further into this post I’d just like to say right upfront that I understand Kasabian is the kind of band you either love passionately or you just don’t care for – there’s no in between. So, with that out of the way, I won’t insult you by asking which camp you believe The Spouse and I belong to. If you’ve stuck with us this far,  read on…

Backgrounder

The Social, Orlando, Florida

When The Spouse and I first saw Kasabian back in 2006, when they packed a tiny 400 capacity venue in Orlando called The Social, their music was beginning to reach mainstream American audiences. Prime-time TV shows like CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds and Smallville, and movies such as The Guardian starring Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, all featured music from the self-titled debut album Kasabian.

Perhaps it was for this reason that the band chose to kick off their world tour in support of the second album, Empire, here in the US. It seemed then that nothing could stand in the way of their total world domination.

Since that time Kasabian has continued to tour relentlessly throughout Europe, as well as to many places further afield, particularly Japan and Australia. The band has grown immensely in popularity: each multi-platinum selling album improving on the last; and each tour filling larger and larger venues. They are now a huge global phenomenon who routinely sell out 20,000 seat arenas, headline major festivals, and number their audiences in the thousands at most gigs.

In America however Kasabian has been frozen in time. Due to record company problems the band decided not to tour America to support their widely acclaimed third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. While the rest of the world got to experience this awesome album live, fans in America were left wondering whether Kasabian would ever tour the US again. After all these years it’s still fair to say that with most Americans, if they know Kasabian at all, it’s for only one song: Club Foot.

Fast forward to the fall of 2011 and the September 27th release of Kasabian’s fourth album Velociraptor! There’s a new record company in place for the US, it’s The Spouse’s birthday, and rumors begin to circulate: is a North American tour in the works?

So I started subscribing to venue mailing lists and sure enough, in December, our favorite venue in Seattle – The Showbox – announced tickets were going on sale for Kasabian. I checked the official Kasabian website and there they were, all the upcoming US tour dates; a thing of beauty to behold. Tickets were purchased post-haste!

Velocirator! North American Tour

Of course for The Spouse & I this tour was always going to be about much more than just the new record Velociraptor! Since America completely missed out on West Ryder the tour would compress the last five years of Kasabian’s immense growth both as musicians and as performers into a single event.

And with New York and Coachella being the only exceptions, all the venues would be small to mid-size: up to 1,200 capacity; pretty close to the scale Kasabian was accustomed to with the American fan base back in 2006, but a level of intimacy they are definitely not used to now. What an exciting prospect.

Velociraptor! Tour

Here’s an interview featuring Chris & Serge talking about the tour as it progressed…

Once the tour got underway it wasn’t long before fan video shot at the gigs on phone-cams started to appear on YouTube – although most of it is of poor quality.

However the New York show was professionally streamed live from Terminal 5, as was the first weekend set from Coachella. While the Coachella set is no longer available via YouTube (hopefully someone thought to capture the mp4 stream ;)) about half of the NYC show is still available so I put together the following playlist…

Given the long interval between Kasabian’s US tours and the albums they released during this time, I was curious to see how the setlist would be arranged. At all of the non-festival gigs a 16 or 17 track set was played with only minor variation.

Essentially each set consisted of 5 or 6 Velociraptor! songs,  5 or 6 West Ryder songs, 1 or 2 Empire songs, and 3 songs from the debut Kasabian – including I.D. – one of my all time favorites. These were nicely balanced sets appealing equally to Kasabian newbies – of which there were many – and to hard-core fans like us.

April 10th, 2012: Kasabian at Seattle’s Showbox at the Market

Over the years I have witnessed some truly mindblowing music and raucous crowd action at several concerts. Among these, the one I thought could never be topped was Humble Pie at the Top Rank Suite, Reading in February 1972. Steve Marriott was the most exciting and dynamic performer I had ever seen. And as a guitar player and singer, well, all I can say is wow!

Note how I said “I had ever seen” – past tense – I think I have now experienced something that rivals that amazing day so long ago.

A full house at the Showbox

After spending the first part of the evening watching the opening act Hacienda from the relative safety of the bar area, The Spouse and I joined the crowd in the mosh pit just before Kasabian took the stage. We became hopelessly separated before a note was even played so I spent the show roughly center stage next to the soundboard while The Spouse wormed her way down front to the safety rail just left of Serge.

As the set progressed things got increasingly crazy in the crowd – which included some crowd surfing during Club Foot – but nothing prepared us for the 1-2-3 knockout punch Kasabian delivered for their encore: Switchblade Smiles, Vlad the Impaler, and Fire.

The jumping to “Vlad” was insane – everyone – I mean everyone – was leaping up and down to “get loose, get loose.” And the jumping continued until the very last note of set closer “Fire” - at times it felt like the roof was going to blow off and the floor collapse. As I told our friends who came with us to the gig…

“if I ever get tired of rocking out like this, just shoot me and throw me in a 6 foot deep hole.”

And as Pete Townshend famously said in My Generation…

“I hope I die before I get old.”

Kasabian Setlist Showbox At The Market, Seattle, WA, USA 2012, Velociraptor! Tour

I’ve been looking for other blog reviews and photos from the Kasabian gig in Seattle. Here’s a nice one from Back Beat Seattle.

I also posted my own photo album on Facebook.

And finally there’s also some fan video from Seattle – audio quality not so great but perhaps the energy will come through…

While in LA Kasabian stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live where they performed for the national late night TV audience…

Post-gig @ Showbox

So, the North American tour is over (for now??) and Kasabian are back in England taking a well earned rest before hitting all the UK and European festivals through the summer. As they hinted in the interview I posted above, more US tour dates might be forthcoming for the end of this year.

Take a look at the map below which shows the cities visited so far. There’s an awful lot of pretty good size venues in the space between the coasts; I suspect that’s where they’ll go – starting with Denver – but I hope another Seattle date can be arranged – you know I’ll be there. :)

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