Keane : London Kentish Town Bull & Gate

Keane : London Kentish Town Bull & Gate

Soemwhere only few go...

Until [a]Keane[/a] make a video featuring Tom Chaplin being vigorously spanked in a sleazy NYC nitespot (or at least choose to make existing footage public), this Battle trio will never have too much in common with the Scissor Sisters. But when they collected their Brits last month, both of 2004’s biggest success stories saw fit to pronounce their achievements as victories for the outsider. [a]Keane[/a]’s second speech was particularly heartfelt; they had done it all, Chaplin said, without fitting in with any prescribed notion of cool.

Obviously celebrating the right to be different is one of the founding principles of the independent music scene, so [a]Keane[/a]’s triumphant lap of honour at The Bull And Gate, to help celebrate the Fierce Panda label’s 11th birthday, is made all the more poignant by the fact that the venue could be a block of flats by the end of the year. Having played this shoebox more times than most bands have had microwaved petrol-station dinners, [a]Keane[/a] care more than most.

“It’s great playing the place next door,” Tom tells a carefully selected audience of competition-winners and über-fans, gesturing in the direction of the nearby Forum. “But there’s nothing that beats coming into The Bull And Gate.”

This evening, our host is sporting a carefully unbuttoned black shirt and cutting quite a different dash from theTom Chaplin NME first saw uneasily holding court at similarly sized venues in 2003. Back then, even when singing immaculately conceived pop songs like ‘Bend & Break’ and ‘Everybody’s Changing’, he looked perpetually terrified, as though he couldn’t comprehend or control what was about to come out of his mouth. These days, he says he’s still “completely fucking shitting myself”, but you’d never know. He’s such a confident performer that uneasiness only flashes across the stage once tonight, during ‘Nothing In Your Way’, one of two exceptional new songs. He looks uneasy in himself, unsure who – in this audience of diehard fans – will listen. Sometime soon [a]Keane[/a] will realise that they are among friends. Friends whose ages range from 18 to 60, whose shoes veer from the passable to the wildly fashionable, and whose senses have been battered into oblivion by the relentless charm of [a]Keane[/a]’s hyper-melodic, un-guitar pop.

Tonight one of those friends crowdsurfs (to the winningly optimistic ‘Somewhere Only We Know’) while another solitary punter later holds her lighter aloft (during the other new track, the understated ‘Hamburg Song’). And if you expand tonight’s audience size to the number of people at a regular [a]Keane[/a] gig those solitary acts of abandon would equate to, like, 30 crowdsurfers and 30 lighters. Which is virtually a riot of the rock’n’roll variety, is it not? And quite right too.

Peter Robinson