The intimate rooftop concert that British rockers Kasabian played for Mulberry's 40th Birthday Bash last night marked the band's dramatic live return to the U.S. stage – their first American show in over five years. It was a win/win proposition: Mulberry, the London-based luxury brand, got a hell of a performance to kick off their new Mixtape Tour (which continues in London next week with Hurts and Hot Chip), and Kasabian reintroduced their dark and theatrical electronic-spiked rock to the enthusiastic crowd at Manhattan's Skylight Studios. With the release of fourth album's Velociraptor! imminent, it was a good time for the stylish band to cross-promote their wide-ranging appeal.
"It feels great to be back," Kasabian's guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno told Rolling Stone. "The label lost interest in our last album, and it kind of passed by the States, which was sad. Yet, it was doing so well everywhere else, it didn't feel right to chase it."
That disc, The West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum, spawned a huge global hit, "Fire," which launched last night's crowd (which seemed to be half-British) into a frenzy of excitement. The newer material promises similar visceral response, but loses some of the artsy ideals in favor of a more naked assault.
"The last album was great, and gave us permission to do whatever we wanted. It was a venture into madness, a real concept record," Pizzorno explained. "This time, we wanted to do the opposite — almost a pop record." He describes Velociraptor! as "a collision of machine guns, straightforward pop, and psychedelic moments."
He added: "I call it a jukebox record. Big songs. It's a confident record, ambitious."
That sense of unified bravado has always been a part of Kasabian's appeal. Their videos, artwork, even dress code all reflect a "band of brothers" dynamic, replete with insignia, secret handshakes, and cryptic occult references.
Pizzorno's own dark Messianic image allows him to play Kasabian's resident shamanic heartthrob, as well as its most stylish member. Noting he just purchased a jacket at Soho boutique Opening Ceremony, he says he likes to looks "like the future of 1968."
"I don't like retro, I like the futuristic version of the past." he said. "I try to balance things out. If I'm wearing Beetlejuice trousers, I won't wear it with the same coat! I mix it up. I don't like to stick to a theme, the same way we don't with our music."
The band has also gotten better about presenting themselves as a unit onstage, Pizzorno said: "We're shambolic in a beautiful way — black seems to be the way to go." Their unbeatable stage chemistry and compellingly shot videos have helped them cement a strong visual brand and more important, invited diehard fans into a realm of psych-tinged post-industrial fantasy.
"We come from a time when the artwork, music, clothes, and visuals all matter equally. Everything we do is considered within how it relates to the other elements of our sound and look," said Pizzorno.
With Velociraptor!, they'll be stepping things up again on the American promotional front very soon – and plan to return for a proper American club tour in the spring.
"It's kind of exciting that we disappeared, in a way," Pizzorno concluded. "It will be a precious experience for our fans. I like when people wonder what happened to you — it shows you have been missed."
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