Regular contributor to the Pierless Music site, Stuart Huggett, recently had the chance to see Keane in the intimate surroundings of The Forum in Tunbridge Wells. Lucky man.
This is his review of that up close and personal gig.
Keane – Tunbridge Wells Forum, October 25th 2013:
Keane are helping celebrate several anniversaries at tonight’s back-to-basics gig, an intimate affair in Tunbridge Wells’ famed Forum. The Battle band mark 10 years of huge international success with a ‘Best Of’ album next month, and this show is an early present for their original home Fierce Panda Records, soon to reach 20 years of talent spotting. The Forum also turned 20 this year, one of the country’s great toilet circuit survivors.
For me, it’s also an anniversary show. It’s been 13 years to the month since I first saw Keane live, supporting Northern Soul-loving indiepop group Spearmint at the Crypt. This was the early years of Keane, then a struggling four-piece band (guitarist Dominic Scott would quit a year later) yet to settle on the piano-led sound that would make their name.
Aside from Tom Chaplin’s patient frustration with their billing – the Crypt was publicising them variously as both ‘Kean’ and ‘Keen’ – all I really remember of their set that evening was the would-be epic edge that differentiated them from the usual post-grunge supports we were used to seeing. Credit to the anonymous writer for The Fly magazine, though, who reviewed the show and noted that, “Once again the Crypt has delivered a band that could make it in the current market.” Despite many opportunities, I’ve not caught Keane live since, until tonight.
There were reports in the press earlier this week that the band were ready to announce their split, a story already rubbished by Chaplin. Certainly Keane are in extremely high spirits tonight, enjoying the chance to tease each other on the smaller stage, joking with the crowd and reminiscing about the time they got bumped off the bill at the Forum by the almost-forgotten Stellastarr. If they’re ready to take a break, they’re leaving in a fine mood.
Photo taken of the crowd at the Forum by Keane’s drummer Richard Hughes
Pleasingly for this nostalgia trip, the set leans heavily on Keane’s mega-selling debut ‘Hopes And Fears’. The addition of bassist Jesse Quin means you’d have to squint pretty hard to pretend this was a three-piece Keane gig from back in the day, and Chaplin himself is a much more lean and confident figure than he once was, but by restricting Tim Rice-Oxley to just the one keyboard the sound is as clean and clear as during their breakthrough era. Even the treated synth squall of ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ is stripped down to its piano essentials.
Old songs are resurrected, unplayed b-sides are unearthed and even the two new songs from the ‘Best Of’ (‘Watch How You Go’ and ‘Higher Than The Sun’) are met with singalongs. Some of the most devoted fans apparently started queueing at 2am this morning so they keep Keane onstage as long as the venue’s able.
10 million sales and counting, this is a jubilant celebration of local boys done good. From the Weald to the world. See you in another 13 years for the comeback.
Setlist: Bend And Break / Black Burning Heart / Everybody’s Changing / Myth / Silenced By The Night / Watch How You Go / This Is The Last Time / Is It Any Wonder? / Sea Fog / Won’t Be Broken / Somewhere Only We Know / Sovereign Light Café / Bedshaped.
Encore: Snowed Under / Higher Than The Sun / Crystal Ball.
Keane website: http://www.keanemusic.com/
Stuart Huggett: http://dizzytigerstu.wordpress.com/