Keane, Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, 2/02/05
Even though the doors opened at 6:30pm for this show, we thankfully missed the two opening acts (although I should credit the Zutons who were booked in the second position making possible the Sony-provided tickets), but still had plenty of time after Aqualung to hop a subway uptown to the Hammerstein Ballroom for Keane's headlining set. Surveying the room while waiting for Keane I realized that I'd been in this venue before, circa 1971 when it was known as the Manhattan Ballroom, for the Grateful Dead's "first annual dance marathon." I recall that the Dead was still playing when we left at about 4am. The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened, and the show was also memorable for the Dead's tie dyed speaker covers which inspired me to do likewise; but I digress.
Although Keane had previously sold out the TLA in Philadelphia, having only really heard them on WXPN and having only seen their Tower Records in-store performance, I was totally unprepared for the scale of their success on commercial radio. It seems that the modern rock crowd has totally embraced this band, and while Dave seemed unfazed by the magnitude of the support ("their songs have hooks you could drive a truck through") I was floored nonetheless. This was a mid-size venue holding I'd guess somewhere around 5000 and it was well packed; I guess the real surprise was that these guys are rock stars. Still, it's encouraging that a mass audience is supporting a band whose stock in trade is melody, in this case, sometimes lush, always anthemic melody, replete with the aforementioned truck-sized hooks.
The show was impressive, with full big-concert sound and lighting, and as on record the sound created by only voice, keyboard and drums was remarkably full and forceful. They played all the songs from their debut cd Hopes and Fears as well as a good half dozen or so new songs plus one or two b-sides. Their earnest British good humour was in evidence in their comments between songs. Taken together with the earlier Aqualung show, I was left with a strong feeling that the popular music pendulum has taken a swing back toward the simple values of songwriting and melody, the hubbub over Bright Eyes notwithstanding.
Keane's website: http://www.keaneband.com/