Keane : London ULU

Blowing in the wind (machine)...

[a]Keane[/a], it’s fair to say, are not the reason Hendrix first doused his axe with petrol and frantically soloed amidst a ball of flames. They’re not the reason Sid phlegmed up his first ball of gob. And no, Kurt Cobain definitely didn’t die for this. To all intents and purposes, [a]Keane[/a] represent everything there is to hate about rock’n’roll. Chart-cosy, devoid of sensory-thrashing bursts of noise and with a fresh-faced lead singer who looks like he’s just been scrumping for apples. If a bomb went off in ULU tonight, rock’n’roll history wouldn’t be changed forever – Burton’s Menswear would just suffer a sharp drop in sales. They’re a guilty, guilty pleasure. But whereas [a]Keane[/a]-kicking is so much fun it should be a national sport, we can only admit that they write some incredible tunes.

Tonight, through what seems suspiciously like – whisper it – a wind machine, [a]Keane[/a], demonstrate that they’ve got plenty more where recent chart crash-landing single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ came from. All the things that make them such a guilty treat could equally be seen as bravery: the way Tom Chaplin sticks his bare emotions on the line during the ‘This Is The Last Time’, the way they embrace ornate piano flourishes through ‘Can’t Stop Now’. Even the way they reference ’80s epic-pop merchants Ultravox during ace first single (and forthcoming re-release) ‘Everybody’s Changing’. No doubt about it, in a world full of rock stars scared of top-flight success, this is genuinely brave. And the point where Tom really loses it, dousing the piano in flames and tinkling the ivories with his bare nads only misses out on the coveted Set Highlight award because, erm, we made it up.

But let’s not mock [a]Keane[/a] for their good behaviour. They’ll never be the kind of band with intentions to vom up their lunch over the bass player. Not just because they haven’t got a bass player, but because they’re all about melody, romance and massaging as many ears into submission as possible. A knackered piano leaves us lacking a celebratory finale, but tonight the audience leave giddy-drunk with all the thrills of hearing genuinely beautiful pop music. And the cynics? They shuffle off home for a night listening to [a]Keane[/a], records under the bedcovers where nobody knows they’re at it.

Tim Jonze