Review: Keen on Keane

By Joko Magalong

Posted at Oct 03 2012 02:55 PM | Updated as of Oct 04 2012 04:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- How does one start to describe a Keane concert?

If I told you that Keane was a rock band with a piano-based sound, you’d think the event would be a bit subdued. Perhaps if you knew the most popular Keane songs, you might even think it would have been something of a snooze fest.

But then, you’d be wrong.

Keane phenomenally rocked out with their enthusiastic fans Tuesday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

With a pretty extensive set-list spanning all their four studio albums, the band regaled the crowd with their songs such as “Bend and Break,” “Atlantic,” “Spiralling,” “The Lovers are Losing” and “Crystal Ball,” among others.

Tuesday’s concert is part of the band’s tour for their fourth studio album “Strangeland,” which is reminiscent of their first two studio albums. More precisely, “Strangeland” doesn’t remind one much of the synth and electro feel of “Perfect Symmetry” released in 2008.

(Read our review of “Strangeland” here.)

“Perfect Symmetry” is often described as the most experimental of Keane’s albums, which featured the band using guitars for the first time, as well as a more new wave sound. I love the album and the song “Spiralling,” which the band played on Tuesday, so I’m happy.

But “Strangeland” features songs that are catchy to say the least and -- as was apparent in the performances of “On the Road,” “Disconnected” and “Sovereign Light Café” — crowd-pleasers. Songs played from this album were marked by the ephemeral “Strangeland” neon sign lighting up the stage.

Keane’s most popular songs – “Somewhere Only We Know,” “This is the Last Time” and “Everybody’s Changing” -- had the crowd on their feet and singing along to every line. Vocalist Tom Chaplin’s acoustic rendition of “Your Eyes Gone,” and piano-only accompanied songs like “Sea Fog” and “Try Again” were little touching gems of the show.

Keane performed at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday in support of the band's new album "Strangeland." Photo by Jerryl Legasto

Another highlight was when Chaplin and Tim Rice-Oxley, the band’s lead composer and keyboardist, played the keyboards face to face in the climax of “A Bad Dream.” It was an electrifying moment with the audience pumping fists in the air, while the band seemed to be caught in one of those magical slo-mo moments that one only sees on TV or in a music video.

During their short stay in the country, the quartet of Chaplin, Rice-Oxley, Richard Hughes on drums and percussion, and Jessie Quin on bass said they felt very welcome and they thanked their fans throughout Tuesday’s concert. The band gave their Filipino fans one of their longest shows ever with 26 songs, and expressed their desire to come back for another concert in the future.

So again how does one describe a Keane concert?

Perhaps one can start with the songs, which are mostly about heartache, friendship, and the human condition that we all call love -- or the lack of it. One can also discuss the distinct sound that the piano and synths give to the band’s music. Or maybe talk about Chaplin’s faultless voice that takes even the highest notes in seemingly effortless stride.

Or perhaps it’s best to go straight to the point. Like this: Keane just knows how to rock out with the best of them.