British rock group Keane recently paid a visit to Seattle, a return delayed by vocalist Tom Chaplin’s recent skirmish with drug and alcohol addition. Their return was, it seems, highly anticipated, as a sold-out crowd eagerly sang along, with and without Chaplin’s insistence, to the group’s hits from both their 2004 debut, Hopes and Fears, and their 2006 release, Under the Iron Sea.
Playing against a simple yet intriguingly-utilized backdrop (including five flat-screen televisions showing various different angles on the trio throughout the show), Keane delivered a set with the polish of so many British pop/rock groups. Chaplin’s voice had the crystal clarity of their recordings, rising at times with the grace and power of Freddy Mercury, yet harkening often to the earnest soulfulness of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. Similarly, the other two components of the band (percussionist Richard Hughes and keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley) put on an energetic, engaging performance, with Rice-Oxley often attacking the piano with a vigor that seemed certain to tip his keyboards to the floor.
One of the most interesting elements of the show was the group’s performance of “A Bad Dream,” a song based on William Butler Yeats’ poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” The song was preceded by a recorded reading of the poem, whose haunting lines (example: “those that I fight I do not hate, those that I guard I do not love…. no likely end could bring them loss, or leave them happier than before”) seem both temporally relevant and somehow tied to the emotional challenges the band has faced in the past year. Indeed, Chaplin commented on the song’s identification with the current Iraq war, as well, throughout the evening, as ruminating on the effort it has taken to bring the band back to its roots of “three friends who play music together.”
Time will tell whether Keane (re)join the upper echelons of British pop stars, striding the world playing to massive audiences and bearing comparisons to the likes of Coldplay, Oasis, and Travis. However, their concert at The Paramount showed them to be back in form, playing good music well, to an impressively strong collection of admiring fans.