February 2, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 05
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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020



Keane gives satisfying performance to packed Paramount Theatre
Keane gives satisfying performance to packed Paramount Theatre
by Jessica Browning - SGN A & E Writer

January 30 @ Paramount Theater

Given Keane's reputation, 2006 Grammy nomination for Best New Arist and another nomination this year for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and my own proclivity to young British bands with melodies to die for, I immersed myself in the world of Keane for the past month. All this in anticipation of their appearance at Seattle's Paramount Theater Tuesday evening - I was excited to see if Keane could bring down the house and slide my mild interest into a new musical obsession.

There is a tradition of passionate songwriting that bands such as Coldplay, Travis, and Keane have all blazed a trail in. First, with just one album under the belt, these upstarts have all gained the support of the British press and by the time they reach American shores, there's airplay, media attention, and a fair amount of fans creating sold out venues. Keane's sophomore CD, Under The Iron Sea, is a darker, more brooding affair than their first release, but that's not exactly a bad thing. On the crest of such popularity, Keane's vocalist, Tom Chaplin, reportedly had a lot on his mind. An earlier tour was scheduled for Under The Iron Sea, but plans were shelved temporarily when Chaplin checked himself into a program for drug and alcohol addiction. Band mates Tim Rice-Oxley (piano, bass, backing vocals) and Richard Hughes (drums) waited patiently, and the American leg of Keane's tour has been either sold-out, or nearly so, for months.

Under all this pressure, I wondered how the three members of the group would face an enthusiastic, packed house. The band tore right into "Put It Behind You" from the second album, followed quickly with the gorgeous "Everybody's Changing", one of my favorites from Hopes and Fears. Tim Rice-Oxley banged away at his keys, playing as if his life depended on it. Richard Hughes looked well; he is a relaxed yet precise drummer - very entertaining to watch. Chaplin was dressed in layered black, topped with a black suit coat. He looked a bit pale, but it was hard to distinguish if his time in rehab had made him gain or lose any weight because of the layers of clothes. However, his voice sounded strong and matched the fullness of the band.

Even without guitars (except for the acoustic Chaplin played during "Your Eyes Open"), these three produce a sound that carries exceptionally well in a hall such as the Paramount. I did notice that Rice-Oxley seemed a bit flushed early on in the set, and his face appeared a little rounder than I remember from videos I've seen, but all in all, he looked well. Perhaps the flush could be attributed to the heavy clothing and stage lights. Speaking of the stage setup, there seemed to be a theme in place that didn't particularly seem to mesh with the songs. The backdrop was a series of lines and shapes implying a cityscape, streetlamps flanked the edges of the risers. From each street lamp was a hanging dome of some sort - it looked as if they were meant to be a sort of fake "eye in the sky" security effect, watching the band and all of us. Interesting, but how can an audience pick up on a theme that's only partially realized? Was it a theme, or just simply props gone astray?

Putting this aside, the audience cheered thunderously each time Chaplin mentioned Seattle, which he did to the point where I felt like he leaned a bit heavily on the hometown recognition factor. Before "Hamburg Song" and "Nothing In My Way", he spoke of his recent "dark times" very simply and spoke of how much playing music with his two best friends had helped him through. I found him very sincere, and his band mates looked on quietly.

Before "A Bad Dream", Chaplin explained how this song, from everything in their current catalog, seemed to resonate for each group member the most. Next, the crowd listened silently while a pre-recorded poem played. Although it seemed to tie in with the song, I felt myself wishing Keane would cut to the chase and get on with it. Yet at other moments, such as during one of my favorites, "Bend and Break", I found the charismatic gestures of Chaplin a little misplaced. A song with despondent lyrics matched with anthem-style pointing and gesturing seemed a little&odd. It seemed to me a distraction from the poignant lyrics to make such flamboyant "rock star" poses.

Meanwhile, the sound of each song was impeccable. It was the whole package together which seemed a little lackluster in execution. In the end, I think I'll continue listening to Hopes and Fears and wish Keane well. They certainly deserve it; in a live setting they just don't steal my heart as much as they do when they're whispering through my stereo.

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