(A special) Live Review: Keane at La Riviera (Madrid, Spain) (27/01/20)

There is hardly any other way to describe Keane without an intimate fondness. In this Live Review, I will identify personally as Sara Defector in the hopes (and fears) of conveying my powerful musical relationship with this Britpop band. I would like to apologise in advance if this personal story puts off any of the readers, but it truly needs to be this way.


On the 10th of May 2004, Keane’s first album, “Hopes and Fears”, was released. This influential album included five singles which, over the years, have become anthems in the history of Keane: “Somewhere Only We Know”, “Everybody’s Changing”, “Bend And Break”, “This Is The Last Time” and “Bedshaped”, all of these were performed last night at the sold-out Madrilenian venue.

I was six when this landmark album was released. By that time, I had no favourite band and had only received my parents’ musical influence, which consisted of Depeche Mode, U2 and few other alternative rock bands, mostly British in origin. My most precious possession (and ally) was a black, indestructible MP4, whose Depeche Mode discography kept me company while I spent long summers staring at the Mediterranean sea in Santa Pola (Alicante, Spain). I clung to my priceless musical companion as if it was softly whispering cultural stimulus through my ears.

What I had been developing inside of me came into the world when I listened to “Everybody’s Changing” on the radio of my mom’s car. I had the urge to discover and appreciate this band by myself. It was the first time I had been so impressed by a musical artwork. My mother, whose musical instruction I will never be able to repay for, made the most of my sudden craziness for these ‘British lads’ by printing the lyrics of my favourite tracks, starting with “Everybody’s Changing”, and not only taught me to sing with these, but she also helped me develop a strong interest in the English language by explaining what the stories of composer and songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley told.

Therefore, Keane was my first favourite band and it has been instrumental to my cultural development in both the musical and language sense. Without a single doubt, the moments I spent discovering and analysing these albums through the years remain the most important memory of my childhood.

You can all imagine how I felt when my friend Lira invited me to shoot Keane’s interview for Esquire Kazakhstan.

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Lira and yours truly with frontman Tom Chaplin (left) and drummer Richard Hughes (right)

When Tom and Richard entered the dressing room, my colleague and I were eager to meet them and chat with them. They created a laid-back, buddy-buddy atmosphere which was more comfortable for us than we would have ever imagined. Far from being a “superstar” band in the sense of a rock-and-roll attitude, tired of the same old questions of addictions, the band breaking up and their seven-year hiatus, they were welcoming as if we had met to have a few pints and chat about our lives. You could tell in their eyes that they were just a couple of friends feeling lucky to have brought forward their “teenager dream of having a band”, as Tom put it. Tim Rice-Oxley’s marriage struggles had also influenced their songwriting, with Richard commenting that breaking up when nineteen is just easier: parting ways and little more, whereas breaking up a marriage when you are middle-aged, with responsibilities and children, is “chaos”. A creative flood of feelings, it appeared to me.

My partner wanted to know how they had reacted to being called a “watered-down version of Coldplay” or “posh-boys without edge” on a recent article by The Irish News, and instead of showing a careless rock-and-roll attitude, they claimed that they had not heard and were observably displeased, with Tom remarking that being a frontman had been hard for him, considering that the spotlight involved a great degree of scrutiny and criticism. Then again, who would not feel hurt with the sort of comments rock stars have to endure? Have fans, critics and music aficionados forgotten that bands are just people like you and me who can still be sensitive about harmful questions and/or comparisons?

Richard appeared to be quite cheerful about the fan mail and the encouraging support shown by the fanbase throughout all these years. Besides, he claimed that “without the friendship [of all the band members], he would not be able to imagine it. Without that history, as it was something that had defined all of their lives from such a long time” (watch the excerpt of the interview here).

Once we were done with the interview, we were given a Press Pass and a Photo Pass (thank you, Mark!), which I happily used to take a few shots during the first three songs of the setlist: ‘You’re Not Home’ (Cause and Effect, 2019) was the first, a fantastic build-up and progressive start for the evening, followed by ‘Better Than This’ (Perfect Symmetry, 2008) and ‘Silenced By The Night’ (Strangeland, 2012). Three tracks, three albums, a little more than ten minutes in the pit between the band and the crowd that went by as fast as I have ever experienced and got deeply within my heart, as all the photo crews moved fast whilst headbanging, immersed in the only three songs they could live through (Photo Passes had to leave the venue immediately after the allowed songs).

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© 2020 Sara Defector

Luckily, as I also had the Press Pass wristband, I left my camera (thank you, Juanma!) and made my return to the crowd in search of the two women that had made this possible: my mother and my colleague Lira.

I was not the only one accompanied by her parent – the packed and sold out La Riviera was full of parents with twenty-something-year-old kids. Many middle-aged fans, both women and men, were perceiving the colourful performances with an intimate elation, shedding tears, shouting aloud, clapping hard, recording, not keeping still. Singer Tom kept magnifying this enthusiasm by asking everyone to join the band and harmonize all together, ceaselessly moving from side to side of the stage.

The varied, perfectly balanced 25-song setlist included six songs from their first album, “Hopes and Fears” (2004), six songs from their second album, “Under the Iron Sea” (2006), two songs from their third album, “Perfect Symmetry” (2008), four from their fifth album (skipping their fourth album, “Night Train”, released in 2010), “Strangeland” (2012) and finally six new songs from their newest sixth album, “Cause and Effect” (2019). An assortment of albums for every sort of fan. Furthermore, they performed a delightful cover, very true to the original, of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (A Night at the Opera, 1975). Got to give it to the band for performing it sharply, particularly to skilful Tom for nailing Freddie Mercury’s vocal range.

The live sound gave greater importance to both Tom’s extraordinary vocal range and moving falsetto and Richard’s simple Yamaha drumkit, without forgetting to highlight Tim’s Yamaha CP-70 Electric Grand Piano (plus synths) and Jesse Quin’s Fender Precision bass. The result: a bombastic, colourful and highly energetic evening which asked you to dance, shout, express your hopes, reveal your fears and reunite in an “alliance for the sentiments” – is this what Keane has been incubating for the past seven years? Whatever you feel, you are more than welcome to share it with them.

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© 2020 Sara Defector

If you feel like attending one of Keane’s “Cause and Effect Tour” shows, check their full Touring Schedule here.

Check the full setlist at La Riviera (Madrid) here.

Many thanks to Lira (Esquire Kazakhstan), Juanma, Mark and Live Nation.

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