July 27th, 2010

Loopster Live: Keane at Warehouse Live

Three albums/EP’s and five years later, Keane returned to Houston Sunday night. Their performance at Warehouse Live might have been overshadowed by Gaga hype, but the band showed why they command a huge following in Britain.

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Lead singer Tom Chaplin immediately asked for the crowd’s support in singing along. The crowd, already warmed up by Travis’ Fran Healy, eagerly obliged. With Keane’s melodic hooks, it would have been hard to make them stop. Where this might have been distracting at many shows, Tom’s voice showed the power and range to keep 2,100 voices in back-up mode.

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Keane’s latest EP, Night Train, admittedly, is not as coherent as their previous efforts, but the songs integrated easily with better known songs in performance. Highlights included: a solo performance by Chaplin and his guitar, an acoustic set [Note to Blue October, whose recent performances were billed as acoustic: acoustic is a function of the instruments, not tempo], and keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley taking vocal lead for a song Chaplin introduced as a debut performance.

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Keane is often noted for their piano-centric sound. Rice-Oxley’s sound is lusher than Coldplay or The 88; an effect-processed sound expanding the impact of the instrument, think Edge’s guitar. Surprisingly this works as well live as it does in studio.

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My only complaint was that the songs were too true to their studio versions. Most memorable, live performances allow for some evolution or interpretation of a song; however, given the five year absence, Keane’s take was probably the popular approach.

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From a technical perspective, sound was great throughout all but the back corners of the room. Lighting was perhaps the best I’ve seen at Warehouse Live, generally my only (biased) regular complaint at this venue.

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Chaplin might have been guilty of a little too much banter, with minor, justified complaints about the temperature and praise for the crowd’s participation. I generally take a laissez-faire attitude to Houston audiences. However, Sunday night, two groups deserve the scorn Houston often earns. The barely alcohol-legal who boisterous shot intake clouded their perception. Please let concert-goers enjoy the performance. At a minimum move to Warehouse’s side rooms, sound was remarkably good and there was more room for your Facebook photo-taking. Even less excusable, the house-fraus of Katy making the most of their hall pass: if Chaplin can graduate from Betty Ford, so can you.

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In a busy, yet financially difficult concert season, Keane delivered and their fans were appreciative. Chaplin, a bit weary from a 1,500 drive in two days, thanked the audience for its loyalty, and crowd participation likely secured a spot on the band’s future tours. Let’s hope this leg has inspired more songwriting.

A big “thank you” to Alexander Flenner for volunteering to photograph and otherwise document the show. Check out the original photos on his Flickr Photostream and follow him on Twitter @AlexanderF.

— Alexander

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