Keane Might Take A Few Notes From The Redwalls
Andrew Tetzlaff
2/27/2005 10:40:28 PM

The sold-out crowd that flooded into St. Louis’ The Pageant Saturday night were almost certainly focused on seeing English pop band, Keane. The evening, though, was much fuller than they could have expected.

Certainly, Keane did not disappoint. Riding on the big success of their debut release, Hopes and Fears [Interscope Records], Keane launched into material from that release and had many young girls singing along early on. The three-piece band is comprised of Tim Rice Oxley on piano, Richard Hughes on drums, and singer Tom Chaplin, who quickly established that his impressive tenor voice is no creation of the studio. He effortlessly performed songs from the CD, winning over the crowd not only with his voice, but his smiles and charm. To mix things up, they threw in a lost B side, and a couple of new songs, entitled “Nothing in Your Way,” and “Hamburg Song,” on which Chaplin himself played piano.

With the majority of the crowd in the palm of his hands, Chaplin went out of his way to draw in a fairly sedate balcony crowd, and had some success at getting everybody to join in for hits like “Somewhere Only We Know,” and their classic pop nugget, “Bend and Break.”

But image may be an issue for this band. Chaplin was dressed in all black, with a large white belt, and may well be overplaying the teen idol image that initially coddles and then kills its bands. He mugged, ran his fingers through his hair, and was physically separated from his bandmates on a sparse stage set. The band will not be well served to be seen as a backup band for Chaplin, and these image issues may hurt long-term if they wish to avoid being pigeon-holed as a “chick” band, with a “cute” lead singer.

While Keane’s piano arrangements were true to the record, they are often too similar to each other and lacking in any improvisation or sophistication. And they may well need to add a guitarist in the future, to add variety to their sound. Sadly, there were no musical surprises or even a “live” feel to the musicianship. Chaplin’s bandmates got no opportunity to shine personally, and the occasional recorded bass track prevented anything even marginally unexpected from happening live between these musicians. But for their first time through town, Keane certainly seemed to please the fans who came to hear some irresistible hits.

The opening act was The Redwalls, a delightful young Chicago area band that immediately grabbed the already packed crowd with an excellent mix of straight ahead rock and roll, live musicianship, and cheeky fun. Touring in support of their debut CD, Universal Blues [Capitol Records], they had excellent sound from the get-go, bolstering the guitars and harmonies of these talented “lads” from Chicago. The British-invasion style of the Kinks was apparent in all that they did and wore, and yet their obvious sincerity and humor was infectious. Great hooks, good singing, and a band playing off each other, including dual background vocals in shared microphones, provided the live band feel that Keane would do well to observe. A genuinely fun band to experience, and one this crowd may seek out again soon, on their own terms.

The middle act was The Zutons, a Liverpool 5-piece band, touring in support of their debut release, Who Killed the Zutons. Truly a fusion of divergent styles, and if at any point, you thought you knew where they were going, you were wrong. Think: ‘Party band’ with lots of bouncing curly hair all around. With a Zappa lookalike on guitar, they at times seemed to capture his spirit in frantic but tight songs, that turned left and then right, and they insisted that the crowd join in on the rock, jazz, soul, folk, and 5-part harmonies. At one point, an Irish song intro seemed to morph by the end into a tribal African jam. The Zutons is a fun and tight band, but truly unpredictable.

Pictured: The Redwalls


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