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Kaiser Chiefs
Adrenaline Stadium 
By Martin Richardson
As gigs go, this one was in danger of winding down to a conclusion as disappointing as Russia’s Euro 2012 football campaign: a highly promising start gave every hope of a triumph in the making, but things were starting to sag a little as the latter stages came into view. And then, out of nothing, came the moment of magic that the fans had been waiting for. Spotting an unguarded passage down the right wing of the arena, Ricky Wilson timed his run to perfection to launch an audacious surge, which took him clear of the stage and planted him directly on top of the bar. Calling on the startled staff for vodka, he was perfectly placed to deliver a couple of songs for an audience which, abruptly, found it had been yanked out of an arena gig and returned to the intimacy of a club venue. With the security team left flat-footed by an unprecedented counter-attack, the singer had broken free and was back in touching distance of his fans (or at least those fortunate enough, or alcoholic enough, to be loitering at the bar rather than piling into the mosh pit). And, unlike Alexander Kerzhakov, his performance hit the target nicely.

It was a curious echo of the quasi-mythical 2005 gig that the band gave in the cramped confines of Kitaisky Lyotchik – a bizarre event which saw the UK critical success of debut release “Employment” lead to the Kaiser Chiefs’ first ever foreign show in one of Moscow’s least glamorous venues (OK, yes, the band also played a festival on Bolotnaya on the same visit, but when the legend is more colorful than the facts, stick with the legend!). It also highlighted, as much of any gurning for the cameras on-stage at Afisha Picnic last summer, how much more effective Wilson is when he has an audience he can communicate with face-to-face, or as close to face-to-face as possible. In a few moments he elevated the entire show from ‘competent’ to ‘memorable’ – a skill other acts would do well to consider.

The rest of the set ranged from the earliest days of the band’s career to tracks specially penned for the “Souvenir” greatest hits compilation that was notionally underpinning this tour. From the golden oldies, there was a rare outing for “Cover of your Magazine”, a three-minute spurt of sharp and spiky post-punk, which managed to cram in plenty of pre-echoes of the anthemic hits, which were to follow it. New tracks included “On the Run”, which carried another one of those trademark epic choruses, but veered close to soft-rock territory with a whisper of “St. Elmo’s Fire” hovering around the edges. More interesting was the darker “Listen to your Head”, with hints of a power ballad amid reverb-heavy vocals and heavy, sonorous piano. Even though they hail from the same part of West Yorkshire as half of Britain’s 1980s goth scene, Kaiser Chiefs don’t really do doom-laden. If they did, though, their Sisters of Mercy phase would probably end up sounding a lot like this.

Instead, however, the band serves up big choruses, easy to shout along to in any language, and it serves up plenty of them. From the opener, “Never miss a beat”, their music has chantable climaxes studded through them like the Kasier Chiefs logo on the stick of candy rock used to give a quintessentially English seaside vibe to the promo material for “Souvenir”. But if this music is, on one level, as definitively English as the earlier calls to rocking arms submitted by the likes of The Clash or The Jam, we’re already at one remove from the visceral anger of “A Town like Malice” or the rallying cry of “London Calling”. Even the likes of “I Predict a Riot” and “The Angry Mob” lack the edginess of their punk-era predecessors. This is musical revolution for the MP3 generation, where audiences are more likely to assault the world with a polyphonic ringtone than a well-aimed Doc Martens boot. As such, therefore, it’s appropriate that the engagingly witless “Ruby” is the song which ultimately becomes the night’s calling card. Punk may not be dead, but it’s closing in on retirement age by now.

If there was a serious disappointment, it was that the crowd seemed relatively small. Given how well the band had played at last year’s festival date, and given the huge numbers who flocked to both of The Prodigy’s shows at Stadium Live – and left seemingly content despite an ear-splitting sound mix which left much of the music buried in an impenetrable sonic soup – the promoters could have hoped for more here. After all, by Moscow standards, a cover of 1500 rubles wasn’t too extortionate for a touring act. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the sound crew at Stadium Live is beginning to hit its stride as well – the mix for this show was far better than other recent performances at the same venue, with pretty much everything coming off the stage clearly and the vocals never overwhelmed by the rest of the band. It was only that impromptu trip to the bar which caught the sound boys out, as Wilson retreated towards the back of the hall while the music blazed away from the onstage speaker sets. With the singer hamming it up and belting it out at the opposite end of the venue, it left a slightly disconcerting dislocation between sound and sight. But without a Rammstein-sized budget to fund two stages and a collapsible bridge between them, no tech crew can overcome that kind of spur of the moment gesture.

12.07.12
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