As a person who goes to many concerts I do have a precious few that have stuck with me. Holly McNarland with Emm Gryner at Café Campus, Chantal Kreviazuk at the Spectrum, Madonna at Madison Square Garden, Great Big Sea at the Salmon Festival in Newfoundland. Now I have to add to the list – every Keane concert I attend.
There is something about these three guys from Battle, England that brings out the best in Montreal crowds. Now, Montreal crowds are usually great – into the music, loud, singing and dancing along – but they seem to step it up to another level for Keane. The last time the band came through Montreal they played at the Olympia and I thought the crowd was great! The energy level was incredible! But last night at Metropolis they proved that it was not just a one time occurrence. Montreal loves Keane!
I have to admit, as it said on the ticket that the show was at 8:00, I got there at 7:45 and it had already begun, that I missed the first opening act, Lindi Ortega. Lead singer Tom Chaplin said she was an up-and-coming Canadian singer/songwriter, so I'll have to check her out.
The second warm up act was the teeny-tiny Lights from Toronto. She is another artist who uses plenty of synthesizer influence from the 1980s in her music. The crowd was into her and even sang along with several songs. Too bad that her microphone was not turned up enough as she seemed to have a good voice, but I couldn't quite tell. During her 40 minute set she sang "Pretend", "Saviour" and the title track from her new album "The Listening".
Just after 9:00 Keane took the stage to thunderous applause and the lovefest was on. The end of each song was greeted with prolonged cheering and lead singer Tom Chaplin trying to use a different superlative to describe how it made them feel. It was totally warm and fuzzy at Metropolis this evening.
It got so that it got me to thinking about how a band like this – they don't do anything groundbreaking with their music, after all – elicits such a reaction from a crowd. Music is in essence communication and obviously they are making music that people connect with and relate to. Also, their songs also have the uncanny ability to sound fresh no matter how many times you have heard them. Hits like "Somewhere Only We Know" and "This is the Last Time" are roughly six years old and live it is like you are hearing them for the first time. You cannot say that about many a band's music.
They certainly know how to craft perfect pop songs. And they are all so cute that they seem like the type of guys you wouldn't think twice about taking home to meet your parents.
Besides the fact that Chaplin's pitch-perfect voice was in rare form (could there be a more perfect, plaintive voice for the type of music that Keane plays?) the terrific sound and light show should be mentioned. The lights were choreographed perfectly to suit the mood of the song being played. Instead of being the usual distraction they only added to the show.
Onstage, like their music, Keane are totally genuine. You never got the feeling that they were just going through the motions, which they easily could have been seeing as this was their last show of the Perfect Symmetry tour that had gone on for a year. Over and over again Chaplin told the crowd how wonderful it was for the band to play for an audience that furnished them with such an environment of love and support. And you believed he was being sincere every time he said it. Those statements were not issued just to get a response.
Keane, despite the fact that Chaplin is the only member able to move about the stage, is quite energetic live. Never have I seen a keyboardist who is able to move his body as much as Rice-Oxley does when he plays. His log limbs go in all directions. Chaplin is nothing other than adorable as a frontman. He has absolutely no rhythm and often looks like he is jogging in place on stage, but it is endearing on him rather than laughable. His energy seemed boundless. You can often tell how well a Keane concert is going by how red Chaplin's boyish face gets. It will start off a slight pink and then when things truly get rolling it will be a full out red. On this night it was red from song three onwards.
After a while the members of Keane (Chaplin along with keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley and drummer Richard Hughes) found themselves applauding the crowd in between numbers. It was a veritable mutual appreciation society! The energy level was off the charts all night long.
Many have made the mistake of writing this band off as Coldplay-lite or the like, but they couldn't be more wrong. I defy anyone to see the band live and hold tight to that (dis)belief. This was a great performance by a band that has reached unexpected heights with their music.
Photos by Maha Haddad
1) The Lovers Are Losing
2) Everybody's Changing
3) Bend and Break
4) A Bad Dream
5) You Haven't Told Me Anything
6) This is the Last Time
8) Playing Along
9) Try Again
10) Again and Again
11) Nothing in My Way
12) Sovereign Light Café (new song)
13) Is it Any Wonder?
14) You Don't See Me
15) Perfect Symmetry
16) Somewhere Only We Know
17) Crystal Ball
19) Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie cover)