29 May 2009

Keane Live

27 May 2009, Radio City Music Hall, Keane live. This was not one of my most anticipated shows of the year, but it did turn out to be the best show of the year, thus far. I will venture to say, it has been the best show that I have been to in past few years. Considering that I have seen the like of the Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Annie Lennox, Placebo, and Muse over the past few years, veterans who have mastered the stage, Keane proved that the years on the road have taught them how to put a set together and how to deliver a high energy performance, while establishing a rapport with their audience.

Keane had two opening acts this evening: Helio Sequence (MySpace) and Mat Kearney (homepage). Helio Sequence delivered a strong, captivating performance, which started shortly after doors opened at seven. Supporting their fourth album (“Keep Your Eyes Ahead” (2008)), what is impressive about this band is that Brandon Summers (vocalist) lost his voice and damaged his vocal chords before the release of their latest album. This duo never skipped a beat, and really continues a tradition of strong indie music from Portland that the Dandy Warhols helped established in the 90s. Mat Kearney played a tight and safe set, ending with his biggest single: “Nothing Left to Lose.” I would have loved to see him shake things up a bit more, but nevertheless, like Helio Sequence, he and his band never skipped a beat, and paved the road nicely for Keane to come on stage.

9:01 pm, the lights went out and the intro track began, and then Keane hit the stage with “The Lovers Are Losing.” If that was not a major way of starting the show, the following songs ensured the audience stayed on their feet: “Everybody’s Changing,” “Bend and Break,” and “We Might as Well Be Strangers.” What struck me about the set was how intelligent the selections were. Keane, due to personal turmoil, was not able to tour their sophomore effort (“Under the Iron Sea”) extensively in the US, and hence the set list did not concentrate on the second album. Instead, Keane went for the songs that the audience would know from their debut album (“Hopes and Fears”) and their current album, “Perfect Symmetry.”

A great treat was Tom Chaplin (lead vocalist) performing “Playing Alone” solo on an acoustic guitar. I have stated more than once that I think that Tom Chaplin is the best male vocalist out there; he demonstrated the complete control of his voice, the talent to truly emote emotions, and the ability to sell his lyrics with conviction that is believable and, quite often, endearing. I was at the show with my favorite Aussie (“Belladona”), and she said the right word to describe him as a vocalist: stamina. He has the stamina to deliver: from beginning to end (at 10:40 pm) the quality of this voice stayed consistent. There was never a hint of his being tired or the voice getting thin. (On a side note, I think that Chaplin might be scared of heights. Most singers wandering around the stage at Radio City Music Hall will eventually climb the stairs on either side all the way to the top. Chaplin never got to beyond the second level, quite often crouching. Makes you wonder how comfortable he was with getting on the side steps.) But it was not only Chaplin that was on the money; the same can be said of the rest of the band.

Tim Rice-Oxley, keyboardist extraordinary, was the most energetic keyboardist I have witness in my life. Where as so many other keyboards are stationary, he trashed his head, marched in place with his legs much like a trash guitarist. (Keane performed “Early Winter,” a song that Rice-Oxley wrote for Gwen Stefani.) By contrast, Richard Hughes has to be the most composed drummer I have seen in years. Like a classic jazz drummer, nothing seems to faze him while on stage; there are no distractions, and even while singing, he continues to deliver some of the most intricate drumming. Jesse Quin joined the band on bass, keys, and percussion. Though considered by many the fourth member of the Keane, Keane officially remains a trio.

The final song of the first encore was “Bedshaped,” my favorite Keane song till date. Literally, the term “bedshaped” means drunk, very drunk. But according to the band, it is an allusion to the imagery of having been in a bed for a long time, as if hospitalized, when the body takes on the shape of the bed, signifying a level of weakness and fragility. Like the comfort one finds in the complacency of friendship or a love affair, after years when nurturing no longer exists, it eventually withers and breaks, but there always remains that hope that it will come back. Lyrically, it is rhetorically haunting and even more powerful live: “What do I know? What do I know? I know.” That simple defiance, that simple answer, “I know,” inspires the listener to remember those moments when we know more than others think, but yet it is to no avail. Amazing about the performance of this song, which shows that little details matter to Keane, was the light show. When the word “sun” (in the chorus) is spoken, the lights turned yellow, but revert to white when Chaplin sings, “white lights.” But what blew me away was the second cover, the final song, of the night. Out comes Keane for a second encore, second cover, Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Both covers (the first “The River” by Springstein used as an intro to “You Haven’t Told Me Anything”) were impressive choices, because these are not songs (or artists) that one would consider are inspirational to Keane.

Keane is slated later in the year to be in Canada, and one can hope that they will storm through New York City again (hint guys if you are reading).

Set List:
1. The Lovers Are Losing
2. Everybody’s Changing
3. Bend and Break
4. We Might as Well Be Strangers
5. Again and Again
6. This Is the Last Time
7. Spiralling
8. Playing Along (Tom on acoustic guitar)
9. Try Again
10. Early Winter
11. The River (Bruce Springsteen Cover) / You Haven’t Told Me Anything – Medley
12. Leaving So Soon
13 You Don’t See Me
14. Perfect Symmetry
15. Somewhere Only We Know
16. Crystal Ball

17. My Shadow
18. Is It Any Wonder?
19. Bedshaped

20. Under Pressure (Queen Cover)

Keep up with Keane at the homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Enjoy the clips from the show:

"The Lovers Are Losing"

"Perfect Symmetry"

"Somewhere Only We Know"

"Crystal Ball"


"Under Pressure" (Queen Cover)

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