This is one of the first solo gigs played by Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. Recently Chaplin’s personal life has been in the public eye, rather than his music. Last year, Chaplin went on a drugs and alcohol binge that left him on the brink of death. He says he is now in a much happier place, living on the Kent-Sussex border with his wife and daughter.
The album, ‘The Wave’, was released on 14 October and has reached the top 5 in the album charts. Many of his concert dates, staged in intimate venues, are sold out.
He enters the stage of the Thekla in Bristol cutting a sharper silhouette than most would imagine. Gone is the floppy brown hair and rosy cheeks. He stands tall in a black jacket / white tee combo, his greying hair short and styled.
He starts with ‘Still waiting’. The lyrics of this particular song, like many of the lyrics penned for Keane by Tim Rice-Oxley are vague. They could, it has been suggested, be referring to the situation in Aleppo. ‘Still Waiting’ is anthemic and evocative. Chaplin’s familiar voice, backed by a four piece band, washes over the crowd like an old lost friend. Everyone sings along despite the fact the album has been out for a matter of days.
Chaplin glides through his new album. The range of musical styles he incorporates into his songs track the highs and lows in his life. As he takes us through his difficult story his distinct voice swathes the music, which is angelic with darker undertones. ‘Hardened Heart’ and ‘Hold Onto Our Love’ are particularly melancholic and beautiful, the violin compliments his voice perfectly.
Chaplin becomes more animated with each song. The pauses between songs are punctuated with masses of applause, and sometimes with the screams of fans declaring their love for him. Chaplin is truly elated at his warm reception, his joy is palpable.
The crowd peak with the Duran-Duran-esque ‘Quicksand’. They sing along ecstatically.
Chaplin speckles his set with ‘cover versions’ from Keane’s 2012 album ‘Strangeland’. During the encore he plays the crowd pleaser ‘Everybody’s Changing’.
Chaplin finishes, guitar in hand, with ‘See It So Clear’ from his new album.
The best bit is when Chaplin strips it all down to vocals and piano for ‘Worthless Words’. Not only does it give him the chance to show off his own plinky plonky prowess, it also gives the crowd an opportunity to appreciate his haunting and truly unique voice.
It is an amazing experience to see such a talented singer in an intimate venue such as the Thekla. There are some lovely bits of crowd interaction that you would never get in the arenas Keane used to pack out.
It is heart-warming to witness Chaplin receive such a warm welcome back after a rocky 15 years in the limelight. He is now in a place where he can carve out a name for himself with his own words and story. It is a really special thing to witness.
Tom Chaplin played The Thekla, in Bristol, on October 23rd 2016