Live Music + Gig Reviews

Keane + The Dears @ International Arena, Cardiff

26 February 2007

A strange sensation grips me as I glance over my shoulder to take in the cavernous architecture of Cardiff’s CIA; all of a sudden I feel so devilishly young. Wave upon wave of dads in cloth baseball caps, and mothers giving the studded leather jacket one last outing mill around me with looks of genuine, unbridled excitement.

Upon realising the extent of Keane’s appeal to the Led Zeppelin generation, I was, to say the least, taken aback. Still, this is the band’s biggest UK tour off the back of an album that was – to put it bluntly – slated. With such a loyal following in tow, this sold-out event had an undeniable and unexpected buzz.

This may well have been partly down to the excellent spectacle that this packed crowd had just witnessed. Toronto six-piece The Dears fill the cluttered stage with a bounce, energy and force that is not instantly recognisable on latest release Gang Of Losers. With a brooding, dance-fuelled indie appearing their staple, the rather obvious link must be made to the Arcade Fire in terms of effect.

These particular Canadians, however, rely more on guitars to provide their hooks, as is aptly displayed with the infectious Whites Only Party. As the set progresses, front man Murray Lightburn’s quiet, inoffensive voice begins to take hold, until you realise that its the only thing you have been listening to for the past ten minutes. Lightburn, like the rest of his band mates, is rather static on stage, but this apparent co-ordination gives The Dears a huge semblance of professionalism.

With tracks such as There Goes My Outfit showing a quality that belies its recorded version, there is a density and originality shown here that the crowd cannot help but react to. Lightburn, lingering on stage post-set to take a bow, will feel that his night could hardly have gone any better.

With the stage now cleared, it strikes me that three meek Southerners will struggle to dominate such a vast platform. Keane manage to combat this when they arrive with Put It Behind You, as three giant screens burst into colourful life behind them. Later, these screens will separately focus on individual members of the band, conjuring memories of Coldplay’s first headline spot at Glastonbury. The way in which the crowd responds to following track Everybodys Changing, shows that the star appeal of the two bands may also have its similarities.

As the band launch into Nothing In My Way and We Might As Well Be Strangers, both standout tracks of the night, a series of lamps burst into life to keep the visual spectacle varied and intriguing. Singer Tom Chaplin also makes use of the two podiums at either end of the stage, to climb above and look out over his baying audience. The front man chats amiably throughout the evening, although it is worrying to hear just how much of Keane’s back catalogue was written during a “difficult time.”

These interludes are, at times, inane, particularly when Bad Dream follows an announcement by Chaplin that the worst thing mankind can do is start wars with each other. I’m glad Keane mentioned this, because war is rubbish, if only we could just get along.

Lighter, acoustic moments show that the gap between album track and hit single is rather enormous, but this is quickly forgotten as Is It Any Wonder is thumped out to a resounding cheer. Ending with Crystal Ball and the rather muted closer of Bedshaped, the band generate a noise from the floor that is nothing short of spectacular.

Looking genuinely flattered, Keane retire safe in the knowledge that they will be welcomed back to Wales with open arms. It may be interesting, however, to see if every night of this tour bears such reward.

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Keane + The Dears @ International Arena, Cardiff
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