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KEANE – MANCHESTER APOLLO: REVIEW

After 7 years in the cold, KEANE play the O2 Apollo Manchester to remind us of what we’ve been missing all this time. Read Una’s review of a triumphant return…

Following the breakdown of his marriage Tim Rice-Oxley sat down and poured his heart out in the only way he knows best – at the keyboard. He decided to share the result with bandmates Tom Chaplin (lead vocals) and Richard Hughes (drums), despite a hiatus which saw them all focusing on their solo careers in recent years. Such personal material needs to be handled by the right people and Rice-Oxley clearly trusted his old friends. It was time to get the band back together again…

KEANE RETURN TO THE MANCHESTER APOLLO

We were caught in the queue for beers from the upper circle bar, admiring its walls adorned with facts and figures for what makes this old venue so very special. Steeped in history with notable appearances from The Beatles, The Stones, Stone Roses, Joy Division, Prince and even mention of an Elton John gig where Freddie Mercury appeared as a special guest – how about a sequel to Bohemian Rhapsody/Rocketman, it’s a cross-over just waiting to happen? I was left wondering where Keane fit into musical history given the heights they reached on the back of their first album back in 2004.



We actually saw Keane at the Manchester Apollo at the height of their powers in 2006 although the crowd is a little older and softer this time around. Most here tonight were probably too old even back when Keane first broke – but some of us can still remember the raw energy with which they announced themselves. For me it was on a free NME CD which included a live version of Bend and Break. Tonight this song sounds as fresh as ever. And the energy of the band has probably gone up a couples of notches.

Originally, the band set up as a three-piece with just drums, keyboard and vocals. These days they’re also accompanied by lead guitarist Jesse Quin. It takes nothing away from the original sound they had harnessed and lead single from the new album Cause and Effect, The Way I Feel, proves this as it booms from the speakers to good effect. It was well received with the crowd lapping up the new material. Love Too Much is another standout moment of the night – Keane are back and on good form.

IN AWE OF CHAPLIN’S VOCALS

The older songs don’t lose their magic but neither do the older vocal chords of Tom Chaplin. Yes he still looks a bit like a choir boy, now with grey in his hair, but his talent has not waned one bit. Encouraging the folks in their seats to rise to their feet, and they were going to anyway with a performance like this. We’re all in awe of him.

QUINTESSENTIALLY ENGLISH

And as I said, the new album sounds great alongside the classics. Keane are a bit like a Richard Curtis film. By now you know what you’re going to get. They are punctual, polite and execute it all exceptionally well. The audience sit and applaud at the right time, and everybody leaves happy at the end of it. But it is so much more than just that. There’s a lot of heart in these songs and in the performances before you.

It’s an awfully nice space to lose yourself within for the night. Sometimes we need a bit of that. You can’t grumble at something that works as it should.

DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, DANCE

With songs like Everybody’s Changing, Crystal Ball and Spiraling, there is more reason to dance. They can belt out a good tune to accompany these fine vocals, with Chaplin dancing from one side of the stage to the other and managing to hit every note without fail.

It’s not allas straight-forward as that though and Bad Dream is a timely reminder of this. A song which should have taken them above and beyond with the likes of Coldplay, in my opinion. A song that deals with regret and mourning the loss of a loved one – I forgot how dark these nice boys can be. Accompanied by a haunting black & white video playing on the big screen behind them; of gas masked dancers in a 1930s dance hall. It was disturbing and beautiful at the same time. Challenging but rewarding. These are qualities Keane should continue to refine going forward. But to write in such a manner sometimes requires personal tragedy. On the back of his divorce Rice-Oxley has had plenty of material to inspire his writing for this new album of songs.

Maybe there are darker places to go in the future. We’ll be here waiting patiently to hear them.

Cause and Effect is out now!


SUPPORT ACT: MARIE WHITE

Support came from Marie White who has recently signed to Decca Records. As Keane put it she hails from their hometown Hastings and its “up-and-coming music scene”. I’ve actually been to Hastings and it’s exactly what you’d expect: quintessentially English. I’ll be surprised if we hear of another band from there any time soon, beyond these two. But we liked what we heard. Keep an eye out for her.


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