Keane - Manchester Apollo - 18.10.06

When Keane's frontman Tom Chaplin announced he was going in the Priory for drug and alcohol addiction it was the most unlikely thing to happen in music since Michael Jackson got off those charges. This was the same man who a couple of years earlier had chatted to Designer Magazine about bringing back some intelligent pop music to the charts again and was about as likely to stray into sex, drugs and rock'n'roll as Morrissey was to drop his vow of supposed celibacy (whoops - 2 surprises in one year - shock surprises ed). All that said there were still suspicions that this latest admission was not so much Dave Gahan style binges but a mere campaign by Keane's brand managers to give them an image makeover for a darker second album that doesn't feature real guitars but synths made to sound like guitars.

As they walk on stage its clear that Chaplin is sober, but of the other two we cant be sure as we've had our suspicions for a long time. Tim Rice-Oxley (keys) and Richard Hughes (drums) throughout Keane's career have clearly not being hearing the same music that the rest of the world have been hearing. If you were to walk Beethoven in to the Manchester Apollo tonight and ask him score the music he thought the band were playing he'd end up with some techno-rock pillage ala Enter Shikari for the enthusiastic driven performance these two put on. It's always been the same since those early days of Keane on Fierce Panda.

It's been a long time since Designer Magazine last saw Keane in the live arena and that time apart have done us both good. Ok, they haven't changed into Slipknot but they're at least nearer to the band we recognized in the early days when they were free from the producers ears and the tunes had some sort of edge. "Cant Stop Now" and "Everybody's Changing" are pure nostalgia fixes but it's the new material off "Under The Iron Sea" which really shines through. Although not as advanced as Coldplay's recent material there's a beating heart of U2 proportions within the likes of "Is It Any Wonder" and "Crystal Ball" which could set them up in years to come when they're out of fashion in broadsheet media circles but loved across the whole of Europe as well as even the US at a stretch

Keane will never be our favourite band but if they take the right chances they could end up with a career with longevity and hopefully push the buttons a bit further than they're currently doing right now. The second album was a step forward which has greatly enhanced the live shows so hopefully on album number 3 they'll be world class.

Alex McCann

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