LIVE REVIEW: Kaiser Chiefs, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

HEADLINERS ... Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs
HEADLINERS ... Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs

CONSIDERING it’s seven years since their last Top 30 hit, it’s something of a surprise that Kaiser Chiefs are still headlining arenas.

The small print is that they’re clinging to that status for dear life, on the back of frontman Ricky Wilson’s other career as a judge on TV talent show The Voice.

Their last show in Newcastle was at the much smaller Academy, and perhaps that would have been a wiser choice again, as a third of the arena was closed off.

They were promoting their fifth studio album, Education Education, Education & War.

Released almost a year ago, it probably exceeded most people’s expectations by reaching No 1.

Opening with its first track was a predictable move, and Factory Gates received a good reception from their still-loyal crowd.

First-album opener Everyday I Love You Less And Less was next, and was lapped up, as was second-album hit Everything Is Average Nowadays.

Ruffians on Parade and My Life from the new record showed their songwriting is much darker nowadays, and a long way removed from the big singalong choruses which made the Leeds five-piece one of the most popular indie-rock groups around when they broke through a decade ago.

I remember seeing them on the tiny Stage 2 at Northumbria University, opening for The Ordinary Boys (whatever happened to them?), and being impressed by their frontman’s boundless, almost reckless, energy.

Nowadays he’s thinned down and had a TV-star makeover, and while the band are just as tight, and the show’s production values much bigger, something is missing.

It’s not founder member and main songwriter Nick Hodgson either; his place on the drum stool has been filled very ably by Vijay Mistry, who pounded a thunderous beat throughout.

That something is the simple, often-repetitive songs which made people take the Kaisers to the hearts in the first place, and made them headliners at not just arenas but festivals.

I’m thinking of songs like Na Na Na Na Na, Never Miss A Beat, and the No 1 single Ruby, which remains one of a handful of essential tunes the band have written.

The latest album is a much more mature one, befitting of a band who have been honing their art for 15 years now, and songs like Cannons and Misery Company fit well into the set.

But ‘Ask Peanut’, where keyboard player Nick Baines was quizzed by Wilson about his days as a student in Newcastle, was decidedly ITV, as was the ‘band choice’ section, where a big wheel was spun and a member got to pick a seldom-played song.

Guitarist Whitey chose Kinda Girl You Are - tellingly, the only track aired from the huge mis-step that was the 2011 create-your-own album The Future Is Medieval.

When they played their signature tune I Predict A Riot, the whole place was on its feet for just about the first time in the evening, and an adequate cover of The Who’s Pinball Wizard followed.

After closing the 80-minute main set with Coming Home, they returned for a three-song encore culminating in traditional closer Oh My God, which was dragged out to within an inch of its life, but was still one of the highlights of the night.

Wilson told the audience that as long as people want to keep coming to see them, Kaiser Chiefs will keep touring.

Unless they rediscover that knack of writing catchy, singalong songs, the law of diminishing returns probably means that’ll be in venues a good deal smaller than this.