Last Friday night, Leeds-based post-punk revivalists Kaiser Chiefs returned to Webster Hall with support from Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Zealand psych-folk outlet Streets Of Laredo. The crowd was not as heavy on Streets Of Laredo fans as one would expect, given their recent buzz and New York base. But they certainly embraced the seven-piece group, considering they were a bit of a strange pairing for Kaiser Chiefs’ up-tempo, guitar-driven dance rock. Odd, arranged marriage-style bills can occasionally be part of tour life for an up-and-coming band like Streets Of Laredo, who seemed almost starstruck by playing such a big, historic room (for their next NYC gig, it’s back to reality at Brooklyn’s 250-capacity Rough Trade). The band, behind Kiwi brothers Daniel and David Gibson, did their best to keep their composure throughout, providing strong performances of tracks off of their most recent EPs, creatively titled Volume I and Volume II. The set was short and a little out of place, but this is a talented group who has a very unique sound to add to an indie-folk world that has bordered on over-saturated in the post-Mumford era.
Kaiser Chiefs went on about half an hour later and played a smart setlist, heavy on mid-2000s classics and as light as they could go on new material, with the exception of this year’s Education, Education, Education & War, the album that they were sent stateside to promote. The Factory Gates, the set’s opener, was the only track off the new album that truly held the audience’s attention though, with most of the crowd’s exuberance reserved for tracks like Ruby, the 2007 smash that is still the band’s largest international hit to this day, and I Predict A Riot, which first launched them onto the rock and roll map over a decade ago.
While Education, Education, Education & War has struck #1 back home in the U.K., it is their second consecutive album that failed to even reach the U.S. charts. Webster Hall was packed with enthusiastic Kaiser Chiefs fans, but the room is about half the size of Terminal 5 or Roseland Ballroom, venues that the Kaiser Chiefs have headlined on previous American tours. (Plus they just played a fairly crazed small hall show quite recently in town too.) They were good sports about it, lead singer Ricky Wilson even tossing in some classic British wit about their music industry obligation to plug the new album. But there was an aura throughout the room that Kaiser Chiefs best and brightest days are likely behind them, the same feeling probably going through the minds of every group of mid-2000s post-punk revivalists not named Arctic Monkeys.
Wilson is an enthusiastic frontman for almost 40, doing about as much dancing, moving, jumping and leaping as their up-tempo rock entails. He genuinely just seems happy to be up there, and all 1,000 +/- Kaiser Chiefs diehards in the audience seemed to embrace that same brand of care-free passion as they sung along to their favorite tunes. A skeptic might wonder if it is even worth it for Kaiser Chiefs to come to the States anymore, especially given that they still sell out stadiums back home, but the band seemed almost refreshed by an intimate chance to re-live their glory days, and a staggeringly high percentage of the crowd seemed to know every word of the old material, which is always a delight for any performer. Kaiser Chiefs and their fans truly seemed to make the best of Friday night at Webster Hall, a refreshing sight in an industry that is too often dampened by an all-about-the-numbers philosophy.