Back in 2007, Keane curated a gig at Brixton Academy for War Child. It was their first gig as a quartet – Jesse Quinn added as bassist – prompting the then rather odd sight of a guitarist at a Keane gig, the trademark piano sound having become almost ubiquitous after their debut, Hopes and Fears, in 2004.
Back at the Academy in 2012, Quinn is now well practised and slaps the bass with gusto through several anthemic crowd-pleaders during this two hour set, though the spotlight is always with self-pleased front man, Tom Chaplin. Chaplin soaks up the obvious enthusiasm of this sell out crowd, right from opening track, You Are Young, also the opener to new album, Strangeland. He acknowledges the ego-boost half way through the gig, urging the audience to carry on cheering; not that he needs the boost, or the audience need the encouragement.
The confidence the band have in the new album is evident, with ten of the twelve tracks featuring in the set list. On The Road is an air punching rally cry, whilst album lynchpin Sovereign Light Café seems destined to become a new Keane classic bathed, as it is, in seaside nostalgia. Whilst the remainder of the show is peppered with the warmly received, but well trodden, hits – notably Everybody’s Changing and the rather tedious Bedshaped – the new songs are rapturously cheered, suggesting some longevity yet. But, curiously, the band chose to overlook the experimental Night Train from 2010 and, for the most part, the brash, neon retro-pop of 2008’s Perfect Symmetry, though the sound of Chaplin tearing his vocal chords on the baiting title track suggests this song still means much to the band.
For the most part, the sound is slick and uplifting, but maybe too comfortable, playing into the regular criticism of Keane that they play it too safe. The reflective nature of the new album, with the feeling that they have gone back into Hopes and Fears territory rather than further exploring what they’ve been capable of recently may not heighten anticipation for their next steps. But in the meantime, judging by the Brixton crowd, Keane can expect to remain one of the country’s most bankable bands.