Keane Manila tour: More nostalgic than excitingBy Allan Policarpio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Contrary to what the title suggests, “Strangeland,” Brit alternative pop-rock band Keane’s fourth studio album, feels more like a return to their good old melodic, piano-driven music, after it dabbled in 1980s synth-pop/electronica on its third record “Perfect Symmetry.”
Thus, the band’s recent Manila stop for its “Strangeland” world tour was more nostalgic than exciting. The tunes, though fresh off the studio, sounded comfortingly familiar.
Keane—Tom Chaplin (vocals), Tim Rice-Oxley (piano), Jess Quinn (bass guitar) and Richard Hughes (drums)—opened the show by suffusing the SM Mall of Asia Arena with the buoyant “You Are Young.”
The 23-song set was naturally heavy on the band’s newer numbers, such as “Day Will Come,” “Silenced by the Night,” “On the Road,” “Disconnected,” “The Starting Line” and the carrier single “Sovereign Light Café.”
While these possess the anthemic drive and strokes of whimsy that are unmistakably Keane, it was the classics from the first two albums, “Hopes and Fears” and “Under the Iron Sea,” that stoked the crowd’s enthusiasm.
The atmosphere was initially tepid, since quite a few people seemed to be more concerned about snapping photos and recording the show. But when Rice-Oxley unleashed the distinctive, stomping piano riff to the smash hit “Everybody’s Changing,” suddenly there was madness. The infectious blend of piano and synthesizer sounds in the intro energized the venue, elicited raucous cheers and jolted fans off their seats. As Chaplin belted out the chorus, the crowd sang along in deafening unison: “Everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same!”
Though his moves were a bit awkward and his showmanship bordered on cheesy, Chaplin was nevertheless a vigorous performer. His unfaltering voice was as strong and vibrant as it is on record. His accent and choirboy charm served him well, especially with the ladies.
“What I love about being here is that everyone has such an incredibly positive attitude about life,” he told the adoring crowd.
Acoustic guitar slung across his shoulder, Chaplin did a bare-bones solo of “Your Eyes Open.” Then, a wave of melancholy swept over the crowd as the band performed the eerie,
atmospheric “Atlantic.” The song started with a lengthy instrumental that moved languidly toward a climax that saw Chaplin lending serene vocals to words that evoke fear of being alone.
Keane owes much of its commercial success to its crisp and driving pop-rock tunes, but it’s the band’s quieter and more poignant side that turns a casual listener into a fan. “Try Again,” “We Might as Well Be Strangers” and “Bedshaped” packed emotional wallop, but strangely left one feeling hopeful and uplifted. Another such song was “A Bad Dream,” centerpiece ballad of the band’s sophomore album.
In what turned out to be one of the concert’s highlights, Chaplin hammered away on the keyboards face to face with Rice-Oxley on the dramatic instrumental interlude leading to the song’s final chorus.
The sadness was masked with blasts of midtempo beats on “This Is the Last Time,” “Bend and Break,” and the cheery, Christmas carol-ish “Snowed Under.”
To offset the midtempo anthems and ballads, the band played a smattering of danceable, head-bobbing tunes such as “Is It any Wonder?” and “Spiralling.”
It was a fairly straightforward concert overall, with no surprise numbers or flourishes. Chaplin indefatigably swung from one hit to another with aplomb. Between songs, Rice-Oxley could be heard tinkering with random notes and chords.
Being a piano rock band, Keane is regularly compared to its contemporary, Coldplay. The resemblance, however, starts and ends there.
Keane, at least on its first two albums, went for more soaring choruses like those on “Somewhere only We Know”—unquestionably the concert’s most anticipated and applauded number. It was one of the few songs that had everyone singing from the very first word.
Before capping the night off with the addictive and radio-friendly “Crystal Ball,” Chaplin told the fans that he had an incredible experience playing in Manila. “We’d love to come back,” he said.
Judging by the roars and clamors for more, it was clear the feeling was mutual.
Recent Stories:Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.