Keane, 02 Arena, London, February 12th 2009
There was a time a few years back when Keane never thought they’d see this moment, but they’ve come out the other side of rehab and fractured friendships, managing to piece it all back together. As lead singer Tom Chaplin says just before they break into first track The Lovers Are Losing at London’s 02 Arena: “Welcome to the biggest night of our career.” If Keane are worried about playing such a huge space, they don’t show it. Nearly every seat is filled with expectant fans and the now-quartet don’t disappoint, playing a range of material old and new, all merging seamlessly into one coherent Keane sound…
The East Sussex lads have always had their critics: too miserable, too posh, too nothing. But tonight isn’t about any of that: tonight is a night to celebrate their undoubted knack for creating and delivering beautifully crafted pop and for wallowing in the deep love in the room. Keane’s audience have grown up with the band, their music providing the soundtrack to their lives. From the fried gold tracks of Hopes And Fears to the more dour Under The Iron Sea through to the almost giddy Perfect Symmetry, the crowd lap up whatever the band serve them. Recent single Spiralling melds with This Is The Last Time; Perfect Symmetry glides into a rousing singalong rendition of Somewhere Only We Know; Everybody’s Changing rubs shoulders with Better Than This.
We know Keane have got the tunes, but their stage presence is gripping too. Chaplin and co punch the air regularly and shake their heads disbelieving at the mass of fervour before them. What’s really striking though is how Chaplin’s voice has matured over the years. After the third track, he tells the audience that he’s having trouble with it; a couple of dodgy high notes down the road however and he’s back on track, racing around the stage, crouching, growling and serenading the crowd.
Filling the O2 is no mean feat and the confidence that bestows has clearly rubbed off on Keane. Midway through the show the band abandon their instruments and stroll to a smaller stage in the middle of the arena: now it’s just them, a keyboard, a speaker and a voice. Chaplin sings sweetly on Sunshine and Snowdome, connecting with the audience through effort and passion; songsmith Rice-Oxley looks overwhelmed, on an island amid a sea of admiration. Chaplin is on his own for a gorgeous rendition of fresh track You Don’t See Me and they end the section with a short cameo of Springsteen’s The River which blends into You Haven’t Told Me Anything from the new album. Behind the band short videos splattered with 80s retro iconography play, but it’s Keane’s slick authority and pleasure at playing together as a band that really catches the eye, proving you can be nice guys and rock stars – honest.
I interviewed Keane just before the release of Perfect Symmetry, when they weren’t sure how it would be received or if their fanbase was still there – but tonight proves that all the effort was worth it. Their new material stands up, their old material still stands out and the encore brings a frenzied version of Is It Any Wonder before the band finish off with the wonderful Bedshaped. They really shouldn’t have worried: tonight proves that there are still many fans keen on Keane.