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Review: Keane at House of Blues

Posted 12:07am on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013

It sort of looked like church.

Standing at the back of the House of Blues Friday night and looking out at the stage and those assembled in front of it, it wasn't much of a stretch to imagine the gathering as a spiritual ceremony. Perhaps religious overtones is going a bit far, but there's no denying the British pop-rock foursome Keane conjures quite a bond with its devoted fan-base. So much so, in fact, that a band like Keane, that hasn't had a bona fide radio smash in close to 10 years, can easily sell out a room the size of HOB.

Call it blind faith, call it divine intervention -- call it whatever you like -- but Keane's fortuitous path has begotten American longevity for a band that seems to exist in the peculiar sub-strata of the music industry where an act can have just enough success to sustain a career over several years and multiple albums.

Keane's latest LP, last year's Strangeland, isn't the band's strongest work, but that didn't stop nearly half the record turning up in Friday's 95-minute set. Tracks like Neon River and Silenced By the Night fare better in person, but the new material paled in comparison to the supple hits of yore, which Keane still attacks as though playing them for the first time.

Backed by a riotous light show and displaying a finely-honed sense of showmanship -- singer Tom Chaplin is a student of the Bono school of supplication, complete with occasionally overwrought hand gestures -- Keane's stage presence matches its sleek, richly melodic songs step for step.

The crowd, which roared almost every time Chaplin addressed them, saved its most vociferous praise for the staples: Everybody's Changing, Nothing In My Way and Bedshaped, among others, earned full-throated roars.

And in their own way, these tunes reinforced the church metaphor: consider them hymns of a sort, beautifully composed and capable of making an entire room full of singularly focused individuals feel moments of piercing transcendence. Few musical exports can summon the easy charisma Keane displays; fewer still have the catalog worthy of such adoration.

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