Supported by The Fratellis and The Sherlocks, the Leeds band prove they're still a live act to be reckoned with and go a long way to redeeming recent criticisms.
A decade and a half ago, the Kaiser Chiefs were the hottest new act in town. As the ‘00s British indie scene arguably grew to its popularity peak in 2005, the Leeds band became darlings of the NME, Radio 1 and the festival circuit. Producing a nonsensical brand of indie rock, they were an artist who - alongside The Killers, Kasabian and Franz Ferdinand - soundtracked my sixth-form experience and the scary move into adulthood.
In 2007, second album Yours Truly Angry Mob bettered their debut, being more socially aware and polished without losing the band's distinct character. Yet their overexposure now saw many music fans turn their nose up in their direction. Where they’d offered a fresh sound two years before, soon they’d become the epitome of uncool “lad rock”. With the dinosaur tag sticking, mainstream coverage massively declined and I, like many others, simply lost interest in the years that followed
With the ‘00s indie rock scene gaining notoriety again through renewed rose-glinted nostalgia, the demand for Ricky Wilson and co is now as popular as ever, touring some of the UK’s biggest arenas - venues they’d have dreamt of even in their 2005 heydey. And this whole redemption story intrigued me enough to check them out on their 2022 tour.
Only a few days before the gig, clips circulated on social media of frontman Ricky Wilson’s drunken karaoke performance at their 02 London gig. Despite offering up an apology, fans began to worry about the quality of their future gigs and feared they’d continue to reveal a washed up band ruining the legacy of ‘00s indie nostalgia. As the night of the gig approached, similar concerns were being shared on my end also.
Following a couple of pints and food in Dockyards Social in nearby Finnieston, I made my way to the Hydro early enough to capture all three acts on the bill. Waiting in line, the varying ages of the audiences became instantly obvious, from parka jacket-wearing men in their 50s to groups of youngsters who didn’t look old enough to be alive when Kaiser Chiefs were topping the UK charts - as an eclectic an audience I'd seen in years.
Considering their set began two hours before the main event was due on stage, a sizeable crowd gathered to watch Sheffields finest The Sherlocks perform a selection of tracks from their three albums to date, the highlight being pulsating 2017 single ‘Live For The Moment’. A handful of teenage girls jumped around, sticking out against the curious bystander majority. Despite the crowd's overall ambivalence, it was enjoyable to hear flawless versions of songs from this year's World I Understand - a record which provided an early-year highlight for its polished heartbroken anthems.
Watching live music is thirsty work and a trip to one of the many bar queues in the Hydros concourse was then in order. Though, it was soon discovered that a round of four drinks came to £40 - as much as a standing ticket for tonight’s event. With wallets lighter and minds full of guilt for spending so much on alcohol, there was a quick dash back to the main arena in time for The Fratellis. During the 20 minutes away, the crowd size had noticeably doubled in size and appeared more in the mood to get involved.
Hits from the Glasgow band’s 2006 Costello Music album went down an absolute treat with this audience, opening with forgotten early hit ‘Henrietta’. The Fratellis have another trick up their sleeve. They throw in a cover of Bacarra’s 1977 hit ‘Yes, Sir I Can Boogie’ and it works a delight. As a song synonymous with the Scotland national football team, the crowd can’t help but jump around and sing their hearts out in response.
The three backing singers/dancers and trumpet player add plenty of flavour to The Fratellis performance, distracting us from a few bland tracks which don’t quite hit the mark. Whilst there are some forgettable tunes from the band’s later work, the crowd are quickly back on side for early hits ‘Creepin Up The Back Stairs’ and ‘Whistle For the Choir’. For me, the latter track was peak indie landfill upon its release a decade and a half ago, yet seeing the crowd wave their arms along and sing the words back in unison helped win me over, for this evening at least! And what else would they finish on if it wasn’t ‘Chelsea Dagger’?! It may be overplayed to death at football matches and lads indie nights, but the crowd's reaction to it would rival any other this evening.
After another quick dash to the bar to add to the spending guilt, we’re back in prime, central position for the Kaiser Chiefs. The Leeds band are greeted like returning heroes and Ricky Wilson launches into Employment album track ‘Born To Be A Dancer’ sober and in buoyant mood. During the evening's performance, tracks from their debut provide the strongest response. Skippable songs like ’Na na na na naa' and ‘Modern Way’ are brought to life here, sounding fresher than on the album itself.
The clips from Monday’s London performance ensured expectations were lower than usual for a band of Kaiser Chiefs standing. Instead, Ricky Wilson is in redemptive mode, acting the consummate professional frontman throughout. Dressed in double denim, he cuts a stylish figure, not the ageing middle-aged frontman you may have expected from a band in their mid-40s.
New single, ‘How 2 Dance’ brings in a dancefloor groove to mix things up, whilst a midpoint acoustic section containing 2007’s ‘Love’s Not a Completion (But I’m Winning)’ and 2014’s ‘Going Home’ reveal a sensitivity we don’t often expect from the Leeds lads. The break is welcomed, allowing us to gather our breath before a raucous version of ‘Ruby’ - the highlight of the night's performances. ‘I Predict a Riot’ and ‘Angry Mob’ are greeted in similar vein, providing mass singalong enjoyment and in the spirit of camaraderie a random stranger throws his arms around us to bounce along in union.
By the end, it’s clear the crowd are having such a good time, they desperately chant for “one more tune” from the band and are duly responded to with ‘Oh My God’. With the curfew soon approaching, it's remarkable how the Kaiser Chiefs still have the crowd in the palm of their hands. They leave the soon departing audience satisfied and content with the 80-minute performance they’ve witnessed.
Over the years it’s been easy to write off the Kaiser Chiefs. To some they still represent an uncool lad rock generation, others question the indie credentials of Ricky Wilson following his appearance as a judge on BBC’s The Voice. Meanwhile, there were plenty of questions following the frontman’s recent drunken performance. Tonight, they answer their critics with a highly charged and energetic performance, matched by the Glaswegian crowd's enthusiasm. The Kaiser Chiefs are still a live act to be reckoned and they go a long way in Glasgow to redeeming their legacy.