May 29, 2024

Keane, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

When Keane last played Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in 2012, it is now understood to have been amid personal turmoil. Having toured the world relentlessly for nearly a decade, the band went on hiatus in 2013, coinciding with the breakdown of songwriter and pianist Tim Rice-Oxley’s marriage and frontman Tom Chaplin’s relapse into drug addiction. Keane returned with their fifth studio album, Cause and Effect, last month, and tonight they return to the sold-out Usher Hall to play what Chaplin describes as ‘the longest show they’ve ever done’.

The band appear rejuvenated as they perform 26 songs from across their back catalogue with infectious energy and humour. Chaplin reveals he has been plagued with a cold, but his voice is as pure and effortless as ever. He talks of his ‘genuine affection for this incredible city’ as he reminisces about his year at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied art history, before dropping out to ‘make a go’ of the band in London. Chaplin characterises his student self as ‘one of those posh twats you see walking around’, and says that he ‘wasn’t really partaking in the course – I was partaking in a lot of other things, though!’

Put The Radio On is a stand-out moment in an excellent show, with Chaplin’s voice gliding over throbbing synths and swirling backing vocals, bathed in ominous red lighting. The Starting Line is a surprise addition from their fourth album Strangeland, while Chaplin introduces the rarely performed She Has No Time with a story about Rice-Oxley writing it about Chaplin’s unrequited love. Chaplin says ‘I was so shit with girls at the time’ before drummer Richard Hughes interjects ‘At the time?!’ Chaplin replies ‘Not now, though!’ prompting wolf-whistling and playful heckling.

When Chaplin describes Strange Room as being about Rice-Oxley’s ‘brush with the law’ (a conviction for drink-driving in 2014), it prompts good-natured chiding from the crowd while Rice-Oxley squirms behind his piano. Spiralling and Is It Any Wonder? are performed with joyful abandon, particularly by Rice-Oxley and bassist Jesse Quin. Perfect Symmetry is another highlight; its lyrics are projected onto the screen behind the band, serving as a reminder that it is one of Rice-Oxley’s best works.    

While the whole set is warmly received, it is the band’s signature songs Everybody’s Changing and Somewhere Only We Know that inevitably elicit the biggest responses of the evening. During the latter, Chaplin finally declares ‘My voice is fucked!’ before momentarily sitting down and taking in the crowd singing back at him with passion and tangible affection.

Given the personal struggles that led to the creation of Cause and Effect, there is something genuinely moving about seeing the band relishing their music, old and new, and being in each other’s company.  By the time the band members come together at the front of the stage with their arms around each other to bask in the ecstatic response from the crowd, it is clear the feeling is mutual.

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