Gig review: Kaiser Chiefs, First Direct Arena, Leeds

PIC: Mark Bickerdike

PIC: Mark Bickerdike

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IF EVER there was a band who are proud of their roots, then Kaiser Chiefs are surely it.

From the T-shirts on the official merchandise stalls proclaiming “Everything is brilliant in Leeds” to vocalist Ricky Wilson’s heartwarming admission from the stage that the band were indeed “h-o-m-e”, the Kaisers have never made any secret of their love of the city.

And the chance to play the newest venue in Leeds in front of an adoring crowd would have seemed like a dream come true.

But home town gigs are always tricky ones to navigate - the expectations are always ridiculously high, and there is a very real danger that the audience can end up leaving a venue disappointed if their musical heroes aren’t at the pinnacle on their game.

And the appearance by Kaiser Chiefs at the First Direct Arena must have left many fans wondering just what was missing.

It wasn’t that the band were bad, it was simply that they weren’t great. It certainly didn’t help that the 13,500-capacity was nowhere near capacity, with the top tier of the seating blocks particularly sparsely populated.

The majority of people remained in their seats until the opening strains of Everyday Day I Love You Less and Less appeared three-quarters of the way into the Kaisers’ 83-minute set. Which is a sad indictment for a band renowned for infectiously catchy choruses and guitar riffs.

However, there can be no denying that Ricky Wilson is the consummate front man, and battled throughout the gig to try to keep the atmosphere from stagnating.

Whether it was running across the front of the stage to orchestrate an aural Mexican wave of cheers as he went, or popping up in the middle of the tiered seating section to sing You Can Have It All, he was as committed as ever to trying to capture a special atmosphere for his band’s homecoming.

But his proclamation that “We are Kaiser Chiefs and we are here to entertain” had a slightly hollow ring to it when you glanced around the arena to see many people politely sitting in their seats.

The set was perhaps unsurprisingly made up largely of the band’s greatest hits, with show opener Na Na Na Na Naa followed by Everything Is Average Nowadays.

Of the handful of new songs which were performed, Misery Company stood out largely for its ridiculously simple chorus of a string of “ha, ha, has”.

Modern Way, Good Days Bad Days, I Predict A Riot and the Kaisers’ only number one single, Ruby, were all included, before the band opted to end the encore with Oh My God, the line of “I’ve never been this far away from home” being particularly poignant.

It has been 10 months since the announcement was made that the Kaisers were to play the First Direct Arena.

But for all the hype in the lead-up to their appearance and the band’s unquestionable desire to make it a special evening for the 10,000 fans who did buy a ticket, this will sadly not be a gig that will live long in the memory.

James Arthur

Gig review: James Arthur at O2 Academy Leeds