There's an unspoken question every time you attend a concert of an artist you really admire—are they really that good live? In an age of auto-tune, where manufactured music is the norm and everyone waits to see which pop star will flub their next lip-synch, it's easy to doubt that performers can truly live up to their studio work.
It didn't use to be so.
Anyone watching Elvis Presley’s live debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 knew his knee-jerk punctuated yelps were the real thing, even if they found it profane. And anyone who went to a Guns N' Roses show in the early '90s knew that Slash was going to rip a killer guitar solo.
For British piano-rock band Keane, the question is whether lead singer Tom Chaplin can really hit those high notes with the clarity, precision and strength displayed on the band's 2004 breakout debut, Hopes and Fears.
After the band's performance at Boise's Knitting Factory Jan. 9, the verdict is in. Yes, Chaplin is that good.
Keane played for an appreciative, singalong-ready audience. The set, which included crowd favorites such as "Bend and Break," "Everybody’s Changing" and "Nothing In My Way," was tightly paced and superbly rehearsed.
Although the band is ostensibly on tour for 2012’s Strangeland—as the neon-lit, art deco sun fixed over the stage reminded the crowd with strobe-punctuated regularity—the evening included a heavy dose of selections from Keane’s first two albums.
Chaplin, originally hired as an acoustic guitarist for the band, was spot-on, his rising falsetto and ringing baritone resonating over rapt concert-goers. The Knitting Factory crowd was surprisingly companionable, swaying and singing out together.
Openers Youngblood Hawke kicked the evening off with an energetic, drum-heavy set that pulled from its self-titled debut. Unlike the clean-cut, cuff-sleeved headliners, the band embraced a scruffy aesthetic as members nimbly thumped and thrashed through the 50-minute time slot. Youngblood Hawke would be a great group to catch at an outdoor summer festival—they're summery, catchy and have a kinetic stage presence.
I’ve been disenchanted by high-ticket live shows before (most notably 2009’s Knitting Factory appearance by Snow Patrol), but Keane’s performance made me a believer again.