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This is the Last Time? – A Retrospective on Keane

 
By on Friday, 25th October 2013 at 5:00 pm
 

Last Sunday, through MTV, Gigwise, NME and other media channels, came the news that after 16 years of being together, Keane had decided to call it a day. I feel pretty bad now, having slagged off their latest single here on TGTF and having Steve Lamacq read out during Roundtable this Tweet in which I called it “lacklustre”. Kidding aside, maybe I had foreseen this media firestorm that would take place in 2 weeks’ time. We’ve been told that frontman Tom Chaplin wants to embark on a solo career, and principal band songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley plans to collaborate on songwriting with today’s pop stars, having previously worked with No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani on ‘The Great Escape’ song ‘Early Winter’ and Kylie Minogue on ‘Everything is Beautiful’ from her 2010 album ‘Aphrodite’. Confusingly, a couple days later, Chaplin himself tried to explain that their plans were instead to go on temporary hiatus while band members worked on their own projects. This left me wondering, are there plans to “let’s go out while we’re on top”? This also has made me ponder, artistically, has Keane’s journey run its course?

Sixteen years does seem like a very long time to be together, and in Keane’s case, they haven’t terribly prolific – besides a couple of EPs, the band only put out four full-length albums. But this is right in line with the band that would prove to be their rivals for throughout their career. I am, of course, talking about Coldplay, the other massive English stadium piano rock band. This seems to not be as common knowledge as I thought, but it should be: when Keane’s principal songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley was still at University College of London, he was approached in 1997 by then unknown musician Chris Martin, who asked him to join his new band. Had Rice-Oxley taken him up on the offer, there might never have been a Keane at all. Imagine how different the musical landscape today would be if he’d agreed. Thankfully, he said no, saying he wanted to stay with his then band The Lotus Eaters and in a flurry of subsequent action, Tom Chaplin was drafted to come in as lead vocalist. Thus Keane was born.

As they are for most fledgling bands, the early days for Keane were hard. Founding member Dominic Scott left in 2001, disheartened by the band’s lack of progress. Had it not been for Fierce Panda Records head honcho Simon Williams, who just happened to see the band perform in London the following year, Keane might not have gone anywhere. Williams, having seen promise in Coldplay several years prior, agreed to put out their first commercial single, ‘Everybody’s Changing’, which then caught the ears of one Steve Lamacq, who at the time was still on Radio1. When Keane started getting popular here in America, I avoided them like the plague. What a snooze! ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ seemed to be on the radio every single time I switched it on, and it drove me crazy. ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ got on my nerves. Who is that guy singing? Man, that delivery’s annoying.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oextk-If8HQ[/youtube]

I later ate my words when I fell in love with Chaplin’s voice and Rice-Oxley’s songwriting. And this happened with third album ‘Perfect Symmetry’, which would be the album that made me want to even go near them. Making synthesisers and guitars more prominent in their sound caught my eyes and ears: was this really the same Keane that was putting out that dirge ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and that annoyance ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ that I couldn’t stand? And yet, surprisingly, it was. It was from there that I went backwards in time, to come to know and love ‘Hopes and Fears’ (and ‘Under the Iron Sea’ to a much lesser extent) and Keane became an important part of my life.

When my heart got broken for the second time, Chaplin sang to me, “this is the last time, the last time I will show my face / one last tender lie, and then I’m out of this place”, and I felt he knew my pain. Like many of the bands I like, I think some of their lyrics have been horribly misunderstood. I interpret ‘This is the Last Time’ as a cry for help from someone contemplating suicide. Some people seem to think that because Keane are a mainstream band, that means their lyrics must be throwaway and aren’t anything important. No. You just haven’t been looking hard enough, people. I know for me and many Keane fans out there, the band and their songs have been there for us when we needed them. We are the people who took to social media immediately on Sunday morning and were taking this break-up news the hardest.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u86VdOc3asA[/youtube]

While in shock from hearing the news Keane were splitting up, I joked on Twitter, why couldn’t it have been Coldplay instead? Don’t ask me why, but except for ‘The Scientist’, Martin’s words don’t do a thing for me. For the better part of the last 2 decades, and rather unfairly in my opinion, Keane and Coldplay have been lumped together because they share that one major, distinguishing characteristic: using a piano as the lead instrument in their songs. It’s my understanding that the two bands are of similar stature in the UK when it comes to fan and mainstream popularity, where their label of stadium piano rock is most appropriate.

Inexplicably, Coldplay is far and away much more massive than Keane is here in America. I really don’t really get it. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Tom Chaplin’s voice can run circles around Chris Martin’s, with the ability to transform chameleon-like from gorgeously tender, to hauntingly emotional, to sweepingly grand in a chorus all in the same song. The existential musings on the digital world offered up in third album title track ‘Perfect Symmetry’ couldn’t have been written by anyone else but Tim Rice-Oxley. For me, Keane was always the complete package: beautifully sung vocals by Chaplin, in the backdrop of Rice-Oxley’s amazing songwriting, with perfectly matched drums and percussion from Richard Hughes and later, guitars from touring band member and Rice-Oxley’s Mt. Desolation compadre Jesse Quin.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRLv6zvyE48[/youtube]

But Keane was not without some career stumbles. The ‘Night Train’ EP of 2010 saw the band try to spread their wings even further beyond their unusual MOR style. Much credit needs to be given for them trying to branch out into rap, collaborating with Somali-Canadian rapper K’Naan on single ‘Stop for a Minute’, the video of which had me spellbound as I watched it off a bar’s television on a street in Copenhagen, and even crossing cultural borders in ‘Ishin Denshin’, working with Japanese rapper Tigarah in what ended up being an embarrassing experiment. Latest album ‘Strangeland’ disappointed critics, only receiving average reviews; even I thought it was an uneven effort, featuring great singles but containing mostly with filler. Still, fans ate it up and bought it in droves. And as always, the same fans saw them in huge numbers on tour.

The last time (no pun intended) I saw them gig was on the Strangeland North American tour of 2012. They sounded brilliant as always. Ever the showman, Chaplin and his charisma grabbed hold quickly to the audience’s attention and never let go of the entire hour and a half they played. Even if their last two studio albums were less than stellar and for some reason they don’t even return to the stage as a live band, the experience of seeing them will always be remembered as something very special. I will always treasure being mere feet away from Keane, down the front for an intimate appearance at Cedar Street Courtyard during my first SXSW in 2012. Never would I imagine a year and a half later, we’d be talking about their potential demise. Whatever happens, guys, we will be missing you.

 

In the Post #112: Keane preview forthcoming greatest hits album with new song ‘Higher Than the Sun’

 
By on Tuesday, 15th October 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Hold on to your hats, folks. Or maybe I should say geriatric vitamins and walkers, because this news should make you feel old. Piano-driven stadium rockers Keane have done the unthinkable and announced they’ll be releasing a greatest hits compilations, ‘The Best of Keane’, on the 11th of November on Island. To hook long-time fans into buying this package are two new songs, ‘Won’t Be Broken’ and ‘Higher Than the Sun’, the latter of which has already hit radio stations.

The tune starts off relatively benignly, with a pleasing drummed rhythm and it isn’t long before Tom Chaplin’s signature voice comes in: “Turn, turn up the sun / takes me higher than the sun / sing, sing from your gut / sing it ’til we become one” – ? Are you serious? Is this really from the same band that brought us ‘This is the Last Time’, ‘Everybody’s Changing’ or even more recent ‘Silenced by the Night’ and ‘Disconnected’? The one saving grace to this song is the grand build-up to the chorus, which Tim Rice-Oxley is a master at orchestrating.

The bridge is admirable – “There’s a song to ease your fears / a song to take you far from here / one for joy, one for desire, one for despair” – but seeing that the song as a whole feels lacklustre, I wonder if the words would have worked better written down in a book in poem form rather than being offered up in a song. Songs are meant to inspire. Are Keane past it? As a long-time fan, I sincerely hope not, but I wonder how much longer they can keep going like this.

5/10

Stream the song below. Watch the promo video for ‘Higher Than the Sun’ here in this previous Video of the Moment feature.

 

Video of the Moment #1339: Keane

 
By on Friday, 4th October 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Keane have a new video for ‘Higher Than the Sun’, the latest track of theirs to be unveiled. The song will appear on their upcoming greatest hits compilation (god, that makes me feel old), ‘The Best of Keane’, out on the 11th of November. Watch the animated promo below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0KWMtL9MV8[/youtube]

 

Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.

All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…

5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.

4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.

3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqF6k9afzeM[/youtube]

2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjwp3jV2PvM[/youtube]

1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.

What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.

Honourable mentions:

St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.

Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.

Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.

Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.

First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 

Live Gig Video: Keane record an analogue version of ‘Silenced by the Night’ for ‘Upstairs at United’ release

 
By on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

When Keane were in America this summer, they stopped by Nashville to record, via analogue, several tracks for ‘Upstairs at United’, a special edition four-track vinyl 12″ for local record label 453 Music. This release is available now, but why not sneak a peek of the band in the studio, recording this version of ‘Silenced by the Night’? You can below.

And if you haven’t already, you can enter our lucky draw for a pair of tickets to see Tom, Tim, Richard and Jesse at Manchester Arena on the 29th of November on us; all the details are here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOCJK1onW9Q[/youtube]

 

WIN / Tickets to see Keane at Manchester Arena on the 29th of November 2012

 
By on Thursday, 6th September 2012 at 9:00 am
 

We’ve blagged a pair of tickets to the Keane show at Manchester Arena on Thursday the 29th of November 2012, and we want to give them to a lucky TGTF reader. Fancy your chances? Then enter our contest below.

Fill out the form below with your name and your email address (we’ll use this to contact you if you’ve won). Then answer this question related to ‘Strangeland’: What town is the Sovereign Light Cafe found in? Be sure to get your entries in by 12 noon on Friday, the 28th of September. We will contact the winner shortly thereafter. Note: duplicate entries will be deleted, so entering more than once will not increase your chances of winning.

Want to buy tickets instead? The full details of their November and December UK/Irish tour can be found here.

This contest is now closed. The winner will be contacted by email shortly.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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