As we located our seats at the beautiful Moore Theater Thursday night, my friend turned to me and said “If anyone starts chanting ‘Keane! Keane! Keane! Keane!‘ I’m totally leaving. I’ll bet we’re in for at least one session of overhand clapping in unison too.” It’s easy to be cynical about Keane at this point in their career, as they’re not revered in indie rock circles as much more than Coldplay-lite (and Coldplay is pretty damned “lite” already, right?). But you know what? I think Hopes & Fears was a damned fine record and I don’t care who knows it.
I like several tracks off both Under the Iron Sea and Perfect Symmetry also, so I was happy to settle in and enjoy at least a smattering of tunes from Hopes & Fears and hear the newer stuff too. Settling in wasn’t in the cards though, as the very VERY enthusiastic Moore crowd leapt to it’s feet as soon as Keane took to the stage and remained standing throughout the entire performance. With no fanfare, Keane burst into song; Tom Chaplin looked good in a simple blazer and yellow t-shirt, playing guitar in front of a backdrop of the new album cover. Warmup over, he greeted the screaming crowd by referring to Seattle as “America’s greatest music town” and told us to enjoy ourselves and “just let go.”
The set proceeded with a fairly even mix of songs from all three albums, albeit a little heavier on the Hopes and Fears tracks, but just by a smidge. Keane knows what their audience wants to hear, after all. The majority of the show turned into one big Keane singalong, at times the lead vocals were completely drowned out by the bellowing crowd on old favorite “Everybody’s Changing”, new track “Spiralling” and the instantly recognizable “Somewhere Only We Know”. Our Tom didn’t even bother trying to sing that one, instead turning the mic to the audience and conducting from atop an amp.
Chaplin certainly loves his fans, and definitely did not disappoint on Thursday night. While not the world’s most dynamic dancer, Keane’s frontman still kept the adoring crowd’s attention with his high energy stage moves, working all sides of the room and keeping up the between-song banter with a lot of positive chatter. His characteristic style is to sing with one arm raised, marching in place, occasionally doing a full wind-up and punching the air for punctuation. He reminded me a lot of an early 80’s Paul Young.
Owing to the new album’s heavily synthed 80’s pop style, the majority of the night was fairly upbeat and rock infused, however they did break it down for us once or twice. “We Might As Well Be Strangers” began with just a voice and piano (although you could hardly hear the kid over the audience singing along); drums kicked in after the first verse and Tom gave us a full, gutsy howl on “…be straaaangeee-eeers” which I found quite satisfying. The most beautiful song of the night (for me) was a totally scaled back, acoustic version of “Eyes Open”. I didn’t even take notes, I just stood rapt with the rest of the crowd and swooned a little bit. This was followed by the equally beautiful, slow and yearning “Try Again”. Against the simple orchestration, Tom’s voice really carried. It was one of the only times the entire evening where the audience was perfectly still.
Still overall, most of the set was pretty rockin’. They really tore up the stage with big, rock loudness on Iron Sea’s main single “Is it Any Wonder?”. It was crunchier than the album cut and once again, the audience took the lead on vocals. Between songs, the crowd screamed requests and Tom finally relented with one of his favorites, “A Bad Dream” in which he finally took to the piano. Following that track, a very sweaty boy informed us that Keane were about to perform their best song written to date: “…a song for our time, we’ve learned so much yet we insist on killing each other…a cry for help.” They then launched into the desperately hopeful “Perfect Symmetry”, a fairly classic Keane song, yet anthemic just the same. Check it out.
The final song of the set was the ebullient “Crystal Ball” which indeed featured the most massive overhand-clap session of the night (of which there were many). It was madness both on and off stage, and a completely drenched and grateful band acknowledged the crowd briefly before heading offstage for a short break. Only then did the audience bust into “Keane! Keane! Keane! Keane!” The band returned quickly and gave us a slightly sinister “Atlantic” before totally blowing the crowd away with a near-perfect rendition of “Under Pressure”. Dude, Tom Chaplin can really work the Mercury and I think Freddie would have been proud. Finally, after vigorously and sincerely thanking their opening acts, the audience and whatnot, Keane finished the night with my all time favorite song of theirs, “Bedshaped.” Who knew it was everyone else’s favorite too? I was really happy to hear it, Chaplin’s voice clear and pure and the stage alternately flooded with yellow light on the lyric “with the sun in your eyes” and then blinding white on “in white light, I don’t think so…” <sigh>. Good show, y’all.