Monday, January 14, 2013

Keane, Youngblood Hawke concert review: Hollywood

photo by Kim Kinsler
A version of my review originally appeared at

American entertainment writers routinely draft lists reflecting various best or worst topics.

Across the pond, the process is downright silly. Music monthly Q’s December issue featured what its scribes deemed the 50 weediest (British slang for “wimpiest”) songs ever.

Keane landed in the middle. Coldplay and Snow Patrol – fellow U.K. acts which have also successfully mined “heart on your sleeve” alt-pop territory – ranked much higher up (elsewhere in the magazine was a spread about Keane’s rabid following in the Orient; go figure).

Nearly a decade after the international success of debut CD “Hopes and Fears,” Keane retains a winning track record back home. Last year’s excellent “Strangeland” album was the band’s fifth consecutive one to debut atop the charts (a feat only surpassed by The Beatles) and certified gold there for sales of 100,000 copies.

Here, the release made a top 20 bow and received moderate airplay at adult rock radio stations. But the band hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Unlike recent efforts, “Strangeland” favors concise songs, emotional directness and atmospheric melodies – all hallmarks that made “Fears” a 2000s classic.    

During a sold out show at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, Keane dug deeply into both collections with highly satisfying results. Bathed in shadowy light and rays of sun on a backdrop, the quartet opened their 100-minute, 23-song set with “You Are Young.” Lanky singer Tom Chaplin optimistically sang, “you’ve got time/you’ve got to try to bring some good into this world.” 

Early hit “Bend and Break,” driven by Tim Rice-Oxley’s bright piano tones and Chaplin’s soaring delivery, was vibrant as ever. A punchy, syncopated “On the Road” found the front man doing some arm pumps and working both sides of the stage during “Nothing in My Way.”

The glorious “The Lovers are Losing” was an early highlight and boasted the rare appearance of an electric guitar onstage (Keane’s music used to revolve around keyboards and drums, then gradually incorporated bass). Chaplin strummed it, assisted by all the musicians on backing vocals.

When Rice-Oxley triggered the synth squiggles during “Everybody’s Changing,” the Pantages mix was so pristine, you’d swear it was surround sound. Before the subtle ballad “She Has No Time,” Chaplin noted that it was written about a girl he was “chasing and she wasn’t playing ball.” The lovely Fender Rhodes added to the idyllic quality.   

photo by Kim Kinsler
Fans vigorously clapped along during the sprightly “Neon River.” Meanwhile, “A Bad Dream” was really intense as Rice-Oxley was hunched over the keys playing minor chords.   

Later, Chaplin sat down to play keyboards on the somber “Hamburg Song.”

He recalled playing Keane’s first U.S. gig at The Viper Room just down the way a few miles and “this incredible journey we’ve been on,” before doing an angelic vocal. It got a rousing response.

Lest anyone think Keane couldn’t rock out, “Is It Any Wonder?” proved them wrong with some dynamic “Achtung Baby”-era U2 squelching sounds.  Finally, the band rounded out the main set with a glorious triptych featuring “This is the Last Time,” “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Bedshaped” – Chaplin’s robust vocals leading the way. Among the encore standouts was the blissful hometown reminiscence of “Sovereign Light Café,” among the best Keane has ever done.

Youngblood Hawke warmed up the crowd with an engaging 35-minute performance. The Los Angeles band and KROQ/106.7 mainstay is led by former Iglu & Hartly members Sam Martin on vocals and multi-instrumentalist Simon Katz. Together with four other musicians, they emphasize multiple vocals and percussion in a live setting.

Sometimes at the Pantages, they would simultaneously pound on drums. Martin was a live wire; he constantly moved around while trading vocals with Alice Katz. Songs from 2012’s eponymous EP fared well, especially the catchy “We Come Running” (a top 10 modern rock hit), the wavering chants of “Stars (Hold On)” and exuberant “Forever.”

Keane, Youngblood Hawke at the Pantages Theatre, Hollywood, Jan. 12, 2013
Setlist: You Are Young/Bend and Break/On the Road/We Might as Well Be Strangers/Nothing in My Way/The Lovers are Losing/Silenced By the Night/Everybody’s Changing/She Has No Time/Neon River/Spiralling/A Bad Dream/Hamburg Song/Leaving So Soon?/My Shadow/Disconnected/Is it Any Wonder?/This is the Last Time/Somewhere Only We Know/Bedshaped
Encore: Sea Fog/Sovereign Light Café/Crystal Ball

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