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British Popsters Keane Kick Off U.S. Tour


Following British pop-rock sensation Keane’s concert at Oakland’s Fox Theater Tuesday night, a crowd of fans (mostly girls) waited behind the venue, hoping for a glimpse of a departing band member and the opportunity to scream at the top of their lungs, or if things really went right, get an autograph (for which pens were already in hand).

This type of thing happens quite frequently for singer Tom Chaplin, keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, and drummer Richard Hughes. Three childhood friends from East Sussex, they’ve sold more than 10 million records full of melodic piano pop.

During Keane’s North American tour kick-off, Chaplin proved to be a convincing frontman, dancing atop speaker monitors, crooning to the first few rows of fans, and proclaiming his love for the audience (as well as the sweet smell of weed in the air). But it’s Rice-Oxley who powers the band. He writes the songs, and it’s his creative synthesizer and soulful piano that carry the compositions. He even sang lead vocals on the pulsing synth-pop nugget “Your Love,” off the recently released EP Night Train.

Also of note from the new album was the big hook and bouncing rhythms of “Stop For A Minute” (which features rapper K’naan on record) and the power ballad “My Shadow,” described by Chaplin as “a song about companions looking out for one another.”

On the stripped down, slow building “Bedshaped” from 2004’s debut Hopes and Fears, Chaplin pushed the vocals into his highest range and the whole thing felt a bit like a Radiohead rip-off, but without the tension needed to create the ominous mood being chased.

The band suffered from a similar problem with the tender hit “Somewhere Only We Know.” Fans may have lapped it up, but Coldplay does this kind of thing better and with more style; however this could be said — and often has been — about the group’s approach in general.

That aside, Keane is a remarkably tight band with a powerful singer, and they generally fared well when the tempos were pushed up on songs like “Is It Any Wonder?,” which rocked rather hard, with Rice-Oxley’s Yamaha CP-70 electric piano sounding like a swarming distorted guitar, and the final song of the night, “Crystal Ball,” with it’s infectious chorus and big rock & roll finish.

Those fans waiting outside after the gig made perfect sense. It’s not easy to lodge songs into the memories of people around the world. And like it or not, I woke up the next morning with “Perfect Symmetry” stuck in my head.