3 August 2006
“We found our home in Boulder,” Tom Chaplin, Keane’s lead singer, said shortly after starting their briskly paced 80-minute set at the intimate Fox Theatre.
The band’s first-ever show in Boulder, Colo., was enthusiastically received, prompting Chaplin, in his strong East Sussex British accent, to kid about taking the entire front section with him everywhere he goes. That’s the section comprised primarily of lovely young ladies shouting their undying love for the 24-year-old baby-faced lead singer.
Naturally, the challenges of singing at 5,400 feet above sea level drew Chaplin’s immediate attention. After the rock-anthem Bend and Break, off the group’s first album, Hopes and Fears, Chaplin commented that’s what he felt like he was doing: bending and breaking.
Chaplin performs over an impressive vocal range and, true to the Keane spirit, even the elevation couldn’t get in his way.
Marking one year since the band opened for U2 at the Parc des Sports Charles Ehrmann in Nice, France, a football stadium that hosted somewhere in the range of 20,000 rockers, Keane headlined their own show to a capacity crowd of 700.
Touring in support of their second album, Under the Iron Sea, an album that deftly avoids the sophomore slump, the band is already well traveled but, refreshingly, they’ve managed to escape the baggage of pretensions and put on a fun show that’s all about the music and the fans.
Chaplin, a multi-talented hyphenate (singer-songwriter-pianist-rocker), worked the stage well, bounding from one end to the other, shaking hands, signing autographs, and fully offering the band’s gratitude for the fans in Boulder, Denver, and across America who support their work.
The energy and commitment brought to the stage by Chaplin, along with Tim Rice-Oxley on keyboards and Richard Hughes on drums, emphasized the breakout trio’s main strength: a focus on songs with meaningful lyrics worth singing.
For a band only two albums into their career, Keane benefits greatly from already having songs that feel comfortably familiar, particularly the songs Everybody’s Changing, We Might As Well Be Strangers, This Is the Last Time, and the aforementioned Bend and Break. Chaplin also put Somewhere Only We Know to solid use as a great sing-along.
While their latest chart topper, Is It Any Wonder?, was every bit the sizzling rocker it promised to be, the songs benefiting the most from their performance were other, less familiar tunes off the new album.
Gaining extra resonance through their live renditions were the sweetly bitter Leaving So Soon? (“If you don’t need me, I don’t need you”); the eagerly optimistic Put It Behind You (“Because if you never even try, time will pass you by”); and the gently romantic Hamburg Song (“No, don’t want to be the only one you know; I want to be the place you call home”).
The latter song Chaplin introduced by saying it was the one song he’d most likely screw up (expletive paraphrased), but it went off without a hitch.
With the set list skewing toward the new material, Chaplin dubbed A Bad Dream, another song off Under the Iron Sea, their best song yet. The song’s relatively quiet and dramatic, about a soldier questioning his responsibilities and longing for his lost love. It’s a particularly timely song amidst all the renewed tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere.
That song reflects the band’s hallmark: soulful lyrics that constantly search for the bright side, for hope, even in unreasonable circumstances.
They were sentiments that could be heard all through the evening, from Try Again, (“God I wish you could see me now; you’d pick me up and you’d sort me out”), to Nothing in My Way (“Well for a lonely soul you’re having such a nice time”).
Keane’s found its niche with wholesome, universal songs that, like U2, the band they opened for only a year ago, can keep people engaged for years to come.
• Also published at Interference.com.