Story and photo originally posted on the Orange County Register Web site on May 11, 2009.
Before catching Keane at the Grove of Anaheim on Sunday night, May 10, 2009, I hadn't seen the British band since a show at the Greek Theater on September 30, 2005.
Back then, the young trio was riding high after an impressive performance on the main stage at Coachella a few months earlier. In addition, the group's full-length debut "Hopes and Fears" was an immediate commercial success; indeed the album has gone on to sell more than 5.5 million copies around the world since its release in 2004.
But when lead singer Tom Chaplin announced he was admitting himself for treatment resulting from alcohol- and drug-related use in summer 2006, the future of the band seemed in doubt.
Fast forward to Keane's tremendous and rousing show at the Grove of Anaheim on Mother's Day. Performing the best material off all three of their full-length albums, Chaplin, keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, drummer Richard Hughes and touring bassist Jesse Quin (who was also featured on the band's 2008 disc "Perfect Symmetry") hit all the right notes across a blazing 90-minute set before a near-capacity crowd.
From its earliest days, Keane could effectively unleash powerful rock celebrations wrapped in big choruses, with Chaplin's amazing tenor soaring over propulsive songs such as "Bend and Break." While Chaplin's voice is still the most lethal weapon in Keane's arsenal, artful arrangements and dynamic songcraft – combined with the instinctive ability of the band to connect with the crowd – lifted this concert to loftier heights than the first times I caught Keane four years ago.
There is no denying the power of "Bedshaped," the affecting song that has long served as an effective closer at Keane performances and hit home again this time. However, this 18-song set was enhanced by the wide-ranging set list featuring songs from 2006's "Under the Iron Sea" and 2008's "Perfect Symmetry."
Chief among the highlights was the night-opening "The Lovers Are Losing," a particularly sonically-dark "A Bad Dream" and beautiful acoustic-styled "Try Again."
"This is our first time in Anaheim. Thank you Orange County," Chaplin said in introducing "Again and Again," a '80s-styled dance rocker where he got to showcase his growing skills on guitar.
In performing "Perfect Symmetry," the singer approached the audience and was embraced by countless hands as he sang the lyric "Wrap yourself around me" as if it had been choreographed – one of many magic moments that resulted from the energy between the crowd and band this night.
Two other points in the night were standouts I won't soon forget: "Somewhere Only We Know" buoyed by the kind of joyous sing-along usually reserved for vets like Paul McCartney and U2, and the regular set-ending selection "Crystal Ball" with a strobe light blasting as the crowd clapped rapid fire and Keane played at full volume.
Of the two opening acts on the bill, the Portland-based duo the Helio Sequence turned in the better and more memorable set. Singer-guitarist Brandon Summers and fiery drummer-keyboardist Benjamin Weikel showcased their blend of accessible and driving electro-tinged rock via gems such as "Shed Your Love" and "Keep Your Eyes Ahead." The song "Lately" recalled "Joshua Tree"-era U2 with effects-heavy guitar and Summers' towering vocals.
Nashville-based singer-guitarist Mat Kearney and his backing quartet turned in a pleasing, but somewhat conventional 40-minute set of singer-songwriter folk-rock. His radio-friendly material included the melodic "Fire & Rain," urgent "Crashing Down" and popular new single, the tuneful "Closer to Love."