by / June 25th, 2010 /

Keane – Olympia, Dublin

Keane and State go back a long way. We first bumped into the band in the early part of the new century, when Dubliner Dominic Scott had just left his role as guitarist, and a full three years before debut album Hopes And Fears bought the band national and international radio play. Back then, Keane made their living supporting mid-level acts on the UK indie circuit. -Bedshaped’ and -Sunshine’ were getting their first airing, and the band were a subtle, heartfelt act in the piano driven singer songwriter mould, much like a more touching and less contrived Coldplay.

A decade down the line, it’s a dramatically different act that shows up on the Olympia’s stage tonight. Sure, the Coldplay comparison still stands, but Keane have stadium-ised their act in a big way. Front man Tom Chaplin – a dead ringer for British Prime Minister David Cameron, which makes his -rock out’ moments particular comic – has become a confident, smiling vocalist, strutting and egging on the crowd throughout the set, his vocals inarguably strong. The sound has become more expansive, with Keane edging into territory that has musical similarities to pretty much every mainstream pop -rock’ act of the last twenty years. -Original’ no longer applies, but at their best Keane are a class act.

For the first half an hour, the charms take over and Keane’s best side is in full flow. Early tracks like -This Is The Last Time’, -Can’t Stop Now’ and -Bend And Break’ are infectious sing along songs, more vibrant and simplistic than the newer tracks scattered around them, and stand out well above the crowd. In fact it’s noticeable throughout the night that the contents of that debut is still most fans’ favorites. The reason is simple: much of Keane’s newer material is little better than a dirge. New effort -Clear Skies’ is the perfect example, a track of such inherent nothingness that the bar calls us half way through. -Spiraling’ and -Put It Behind You’ fall into the same category, and create a middle half an hour that we need matchsticks in the eyes to stand through. Our plus one is so uninspired they choose a lazy walk home as the preferable option.

The draining, muffled moments of musical dullness are emphasized only more by the exuberance the better tracks are greeted by. -Bedshaped’, the opening track of the encore, still touches a nerve somewhere deep down, and is ten times the live track of any of Keane’s more recent material. The moments of emotion, featuring memorable crowd-led renditions of radio-friendly hits like -Crystal Ball’ are Everest-like highlights among more recent filler tracks, some of which are so poor that only the odd single prompts the slightest nod of the head. The contrast is unreal, not that it matters to the assembled, who love every second of it.

All in, Keane is an exceptionally polished act and produce a near exact replica of what you get on one of their albums in a live setting, albeit with the added bonus of a crowd that’s absolutely lapping it up, singing back every word and prompting Chaplin to indulge in the kind of self-important stage-front promotion that makes him look, frankly, a little ridiculous. Despite this they are occasionally wonderful to the point of tear jerking, especially in their slower and less Brandon Flowers-influenced moments. In performing those more recently, restyled tracks, though, Keane have lost everything that made them interesting in the first place. After all this time, it’s still those same songs from a decade ago that make all the running.

Photos: Sara Devine.
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  • James

    “New effort ‘Clear Skies’ is the perfect example, a track of such inherent nothingness that the bar calls us half way through. ‘Spiraling’ and ‘Put It Behind You’ fall into the same category, and create a middle half an hour that we need matchsticks in the eyes to stand through.”

    Funny that, they didn’t even play ‘Put It Behind You’ and ‘Spiralling’ (one of their biggest singles since the first album) was one of the highlights of an excellent night and went down a treat from where I was.

  • I wasn’t talking specifically about crowd reaction, more about just how poor their new stuff is IMO. If they didn’t play ‘Put It Behind You’ (sorry if I got that wrong, I could have sworn they did), that’s just another measure of how blandly and indistinctly their new tracks come across to me.

    I know the night went down a treat (it’s in the review, too), but most nights go down a treat when the venue’s full of a band’s fans, it’s hardly a fair and objective measure of quality. I would almost have counted myself as a fan at an early stage, but the night at the Olympia confirmed what I’ve long suspected: Keane have become a horrible pop-rock cliche with very little originality at all. I mean, Tom Chaplin’s even started imitating Brandon Flowers vocal style with the new stuff. I can honestly say that for me, while their were moments of class, I spent far, far too much of this show just bored out of my mind.

  • James

    What is up with music journalists and originality? The majority of the songs played were melodically, lyrically, and vocally very strong IMO.

    Keane have never repeated themselves with each subsequent album (‘Is It Any Wonder’, ‘Spiralling’, and ‘Stop for a Minute’ don’t sound anything like the band who made Hopes and Fears. Tim Rice Oxley has become one of the decades top songwriters, and his songs connect with a large audience much the same way as writers like Chris Martin, Brandon Flowers, Bono etc do. Thats what I personally look for in bands. There are hundreds of other bands doing ‘original’ styles of music but just because it hasn’t been done before doesnt mean its going to be any good.

    Who needs originality when one can write a song like ‘Somewhere Only We Know’? Easy for me to say though, being a massive fan of the band from day one! To the casual listener, there has been a slide in quality since the first album, but they just went in a less pop/radio friendly direction and their sales since that album indicate that. I personally prefer the later stuff but thats down to the individial I suppose! Peace

  • Again, the lack of originality wouldnt bother me that much if I actually thought they were still any good, but they’re just so boring. And if we didn’t have originality, how would things ever be new and different? It’s all opinion, of course, but I used to quite like them and now I find them painful and dull to watch. I’d disagree in a big way that he’s one of the decades top songwriters.

    I do agree that Keane were strong melodically, though I wouldn’t say they are so much now, it’s the old strongs that have the most powerful melodies. Vocally – well the guy can certainly sing, but lyrically they’re awful. Somewhere Only We Go is actually the perfect example, though I do like that song. Do you really think this is lyrically strong? It sounds like a dodgy come on to me:

    And if you have a minute why don’t we go
    Talk about it somewhere only we know?
    This could be the end of everything
    So why don’t we go, somewhere only we know
    Somewhere only we know?

    As for Crystal Ball, that’s pretty laughable too:

    Oh, crystal ball, crystal ball
    Save us all, tell me life is beautiful
    Mirror, mirror on the wall
    Oh, crystal ball, hear my song
    I’m fading out, everything I know is wrong
    So put me where I belong

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s all but meaningless. Anyway, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, but I was asked to review a gig and I reviewed it honestly. It’s even about a band I wanted to like, I just didn’t, and in that case it’s my job to say why. Sorry! But indeed, peace.

  • James

    Ha no problem man. Lyrics are a personal thing though. Ones mans laughable could mean so much to someone else or their author. Most peoples lyrics will look poor in print anyway, its the music that brings them to life, Somewhere only we knows chorus sounds powerful in song, less so on paper.

    Tim is a great writer though, even recognised by the ivor novello awards (though Lily Allens victory this year cheapened that particular accolade!) and is very highly thought of within the pop industry, hence being asked by record labels to pen songs for Gwen Stefani, Kylie, and Kanye West. His finest moment for me (as a songwriter myself) is the title track on Keanes third album Perfect Symmetry, if you havn’t listened much to the more recent stuff, check it out. I read an interview where he said it was the song he was most proud to have written in his career.

    Can’t really ask much more from a review anyway than an honest opinion from the writer. Just replying from a fans point of view which is what the comments section is for! Everyones got their own views as music is such a personal artform. Nice talking to you!

  • Now Lily Allen was can agree on :P. Nice talking to you too, man. 🙂