When I turned up at the O2 Arena on Friday night—I couldn’t quite believe the diversity of fans in the arena. From older couples right the way down to children, it seemed I had underestimated the appeal of Keane. But then, when looking at the crowd, I started to wonder whether it was possible for the band to appease so many different types of people with one gig—there was only one way to find out.
Support for the evening came from Wolf Gang— who had pulled their first show earlier in the week after singer, Max McElligott, lost his voice. However, despite Max’s voice still not being one-hundred-percent, Wolf Gang did not let this stop them putting on an admirable opening slot. The band didn’t look out of their depth at all, instead blossoming in front of a larger audience. Songs from their debut, Suego Faults, sounded like they were written with arenas in mind—especially ‘The King and All of His Men’. The newer material sounded a lot more polished and refined than their first airing at The Joiners in September; promising great things for the next album. With the comfort and ease they played, the anthemic quality of their songs and their stage presence it doesn’t seem like it will be long before Wolf Gang will be playing here on their own headlining tour.
Keane took to the stage shortly after, having to walk through the crowd to get to their centre stage set-up. Although not the most extravagant of stages with a simple ‘Strangeland’ motif overhead and 2 runways; the closeness of the stage to every member of the audience helped create a closeness and intimacy that I had expected to be lost in such a high capacity venue.
Starting with ‘You Are Young’ from their latest album—the band immediately established the intimate feeling by rotating around the stage and playing to their own section of the crowd in turn—making every single audience member feel valued right from the start. By the end most of the crowd were on their feet; which meant that when ‘Bend & Break’ followed—it was met with outstretched arms and a swaying crowd.
This surprisingly energetic audience reception was maintained throughout, except in softer songs such as ‘Hamburg Song’. It was in these quieter moments that the overwhelming intensity of Keane was truly shown; as it memorised the audience in to complete (and I mean that in the literal sense) silence. And yet, straight afterwards they had the crowd back on their feet, singing loudly to ‘Neon River’—which, as my favourite on Strangeland, was performed flawlessly.
Personal highlights of the set came in the shape of the predictable ‘Bedshaped’, ‘A Bad Dream’ and ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ which had crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. It was during these songs that Keane were at their best—feeding off the crowd enthusiasm to take the songs above and beyond.
For 2 hours, Keane made sure the audience were part of their Strangeland. And I, like most of the audience, will go away remembering this night fondly.