Black Onassis - Koko London / Academy 3 Manchester
There is a strange, sometimes infantile, sort of rivalry between Kasabian fans and those who still hold a torch for former member Chris Karloff. The former assert that Karloff, despite having co-writing credits on the first album as well as three songs ('Empire', 'By My Side' and 'Stuntman') from the second, actually played a minimal and inconsequential role in the band (despite coming up with their name and playing that bass riff on 'Club Foot'), and thus his defection/ejection is of no consequence. The other side holds that Karloff was in fact the mastermind behind the band's initial sound and since leaving they have spiralled into the untold lands of mediocrity (albeit with three number one albums and a sell-out hometown gig of 60,000 to come).
I, happily, fall into neither of these camps. But it would seem I am the minority. Maybe I was naive, but I did expect a better turnout for the first UK dates for his new project Black Onassis. I thought the old guard would come out to see him, and even newer Kasabian fans, who got into the band post-Karloff, would attend out of curiosity if nothing else.
The crowd at KOKO are very young. Dressed up to the nines (some barely dressed at all) it looked like they would still have been sporting their Huggies when Kasabian's debut came out. It was a pretty good turnout and a very positive reaction. Karloff is joined by Danny Greet, one half of Leicester band The Vanishing Point, on co-pilot duties. Stood behind their equipment, obscured by laptops, synths and drum machine, the two men put on a fervent performance peppering the sounds with guitar and bass. The set was short, barely 30 minutes, yet it was non-stop. The six tracks from Black Onassis' excellent debut Desensitized go down well, especially 'Humans Animals', the frantic 'Mono' and the album's highlight 'Brain', with Ben Gautrey in person on vocals. With the final strains of 'Iso' buzzing away a screen comes down to close play on a more than satisfactory return.
Manchester was a different story. A day after a Leicester hometown gig - where I heard varying reports of its success, though all in all it seemed like a good turnout and warm reception - and I had hoped for the same here. Unfortunately, the Mancs let the side down, failing to come out of their holes on a chilly Thursday night for Karloff, who had last played in town nine years previously. They missed a great set. If the band noticed the sparse crowd they didn't show it, putting on another strong performance. Stretching to 50 minutes, the set also included 'Adhd' and the excellent 'TripB'; with a proper reception and a full house this would have been a killer gig. Alas they were met instead with crushing indifference.
On Black Onassis' next visit to the UK, maybe we can hope for an entente cordiale between the two fractions. For me anyway, I was glad to have him back.