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Jumping from past to present, Kaiser Chiefs electrify

CAMBRIDGE -- It's an encouraging sign of fairer days ahead when a Saturday night in Central Square is abuzz with anticipation of a sold-out show. The mood was no less enthusiastic inside the Middle East Downstairs when the lights dimmed and Kaiser Chiefs strode onstage to an amped-up version of the Beatles' ''Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey."

A punchy keyboard and thumping bass line propelled the set opener, ''Na Na Na Na Naaa," from the band's acclaimed new CD, ''Employment." Dynamic drumming and a steady guitar then led into ''Everyday I Love You Less and Less," and frontman Ricky Wilson, in a Carnaby Street-era Mod blazer, worked every inch of the stage.

During ''I Predict a Riot," Wilson worked his way, hand over hand, on a ceiling pipe to the middle of the floor, then back to the stage. Later, he dove into the crowd, surrendering the microphone to anyone who felt up to matching the rugged-but-right harmonies that accentuated ''Oh My God."

Wilson may be cheeky, but you never get the impression that he has lost sight of the fantastic band he fronts. ''I Predict a Riot" began with pounding drums and a rhythm that hinted at surf guitar before it jumped into the poppy Beatles tradition so effectively mined by Oasis.

The energetic melding of club beats and guitar stylings of ''Modern Way" proved that the band owes a debt to the Clash as well as Big Audio Dynamite.

But perhaps even more impressive were the fuzzy guitar riffs of ''Saturday Night" -- its big wallops of noise buffeted by sweet harmonies.

The maniacal energy of ''Time Honoured Tradition" drove a similar path with an impassioned guitar and a focused rhythm section slowing at points to a steady and precise beat. In less than an hour, Kaiser Chiefs proved they are a pack to be reckoned with.

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