“Something must have gone right,” says Ricky Wilson, admiring a nearly sold-out O2. If Ricky’s stated ambition for appearing on The Voice (and braving the ruptured credibility that comes with it) was to get his band more exposure, it has worked fantastically. Their gradual decline since 2005 debut Employment has been reversed, their cultural clout revived. Just a few years ago they were considered the cringeworthy jesters of the noughties’ indie boom; now, to a fresh generation of fans, they’re enduring lark-masters from a brighter age, before the xx drew a cowl over alt-pop.
Thus, the Kaisers have survived to become the modern-day Who, peppering early semi-comic pop hits I Predict a Riot, Never Miss a Beat and Oh My God with songs from more prog-inflected quasi-concept albums such as last year’s politically charged No 1 Education, Education, Education & War. So after an opening flurry of tearaway classics for which Wilson plays Moon, Townshend and Daltrey in a band full of Entwhistles – twirling his mike stand, standing on the front row and sprinting around like Usain Bolt in heat – he appears on a tiny stage in the crowd to emote Cannons, the rousing rock-opera lament of a soldier seeing through the hypocrisies of warfare.
A cover of Pinball Wizard rams the point home but not before, technically, everything goes very wrong. During Roses, the Tetris-styled backdrop screens slip their moorings and are curtained off, leaving Ricky to fill time, continuing rock’s still unpublished research on which area of any given arena is loudest. Luckily, before he starts cataloguing where all the girls are, the screens are repaired in time to become a “random bandomiser”, selecting which Kaiser chooses the next song (keyboardist Peanut picks morbid shanty Time Honoured Tradition) and to show a hilarious encore film of a furious, foul-mouthed Dave Grohl bawling them out backstage. Playful wit, boundless energy and the enduring Celtic punch of Oh My God ensure the Kaisers’ fightback is a roaring success. Finally, The Voice delivers.