Concert review: Keane at Merriweather Post Pavilion
It had all the makings of a mediocre show: The lawn was largely empty, the weather soggy and overcast.
But those who did come to see Keane at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night wanted to see a great show -- not a middling one. Through sheer force of will, the crowd members made it happen. They screamed before, during and after nearly every song. They clapped, and belted out the lyrics and danced at their seats. The energy was unbelievable. Singer Tom Chaplin seemed genuinely surprised at their enthusiasm.
"You should give yourselves a hand," he said after a few numbers. They did ...
Unlike most of its contemporaries, Keane's songs are built around the piano instead of the guitar. Though Chaplin strapped on an axe for several songs, his fret work didn't add much to mix. Keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, on the other hand, was the musical centerpiece. He's one of the most underrated and animated keyboardists in rock. He swayed on his seat at his electric piano, his left leg bouncing nearly as high as the ivories, head banging and fist-pumping in time.
The lanky, baby-faced Chaplin held himself a little more stiffly, occaisionally making grand gestures with his arms to punctuate the notes. Chaplin has a voice that would be at home on Broadway; even his softer notes can be sweeping. Last night, Chaplin's mike level was too low, and the other instruments occaisionally drowned him out.
Though a shade slow, "Everybody's Changing" was just as poignant live as in studio, and I'm fairly certain "Somewhere Only We Know" will go down as one of the best rock ballads from the last 10 years. A bare bones take on "Try Again," with both the drummer and bassist on hand percussion and Rice-Oxley on a stand-up piano, was a welcome break from all the electric numbers; I wish they'd played a few more this way. Though solos aren't Keane's forte, Rice-Oxley hammered away at his keyboard so fast on "A Bad Dream" his hands were a blur.
Chaplin turned the mike over to Rice-Oxley for "Your Love," saying he had "golden" pipes, but Rice-Oxley's voice was more reminiscent of Human League's Philip Oakley on a bad day. He's much better singing backup than lead.
The muggy weather, which opener Ingrid Michaelson called "a wet sponge," had the guys in Keane sweating through their shirts after a couple songs. Halfway through their set, they were soaked but smiling. Chaplin couldn't help but grin at the audience's relentless enthusiasm. Near the end of their set, he summed up the night in a few words.
"You must have amazing stamina," Chaplin said. "It's been absolutely awesome."
Keane's set started at 9:10 p.m. and ended at about 10:40 p.m. Album titles are listed in parenthesis.
1. Again and Again (Perfect Symmetry)
2. Bend & Break (Hopes & Fears)
3. Everybody's Changing (Hopes & Fears)
4. Nothing In My Way (Under the Iron Sea)
5. Clear Skies (Night Train)
6. This is the Last Time (Hopes & Fears)
7. Stop For a Minute (Night Train)
8. Try Again (Under the Iron Sea)
9. You Haven't Told Me Anything (Perfect Symmetry)
10. Spiralling (Perfect Symmetry)
11. A Bad Dream (Under the Iron Sea)
12. Is It Any Wonder? (Under the Iron Sea)
13. Your Love (Night Train)
14. Perfect Symmetry
15. Somewhere Only We Know (Hopes & Fears)
16. Bedshaped (Hopes & Fears)
My Shadow (Night Train)
Crystal Ball (Under the Iron Sea)
Before Keane went on, singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and Travis front man Fran Healy helped liven things up. A couple songs into Michaelson's set, a little girl named Morgan threw a blue dolphin-shaped Silly Bandz up on stage. Michaelson picked it up and wore it for the rest of her performance. She and her five-piece band closed their set with a cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic." It was tame, compared to her earlier cover of Radiohead's "Creep," but a synchronized dance at the end of "Toxic" was killer. Later, during Keane's performance, the Jumbotrons showed little Morgan singing along with the band. Cute as a button.