Keane opened their weekend of London shows with You are Young, one of a few new songs that make the band seem increasingly middle-aged. Five number one albums into a career that shows no signs of fading into decrepitude, their lyrics are now frequently concerned with roots and memories. “Oh, why did we ever go so far from home?” sang Tom Chaplin on a standout new one, Sovereign Light Cafe.
Musically too they are in retreat, away from the electronic playfulness of their last long-player, 2008’s Perfect Symmetry (a relative commercial flop, barely represented here) and reimmersed in grandstanding piano tunes.
On stage, there was no need yet for zimmer frames. Chaplin was an energetic focal point, often splay-legged on a platform or down gladhanding in the crowd. Songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley crouched at his keyboards like a sprinter.
Chaplin jokingly suggested that their new song The Starting Line was primed to be the soundtrack for a major British Olympic failure, with its line: “I know your feet are like lead but you’ve got to get underway”. Much of their material would work in such a scenario, all soaring choruses with an essential underlying sadness.
Their fondness for melancholy provided a pacing problem here. There were moments when the tempo finally picked up, as with On the Road, a new song so uplifting it could take a hot air balloon across continents, but a sluggish ballad was never far behind.
What kept them interesting was Chaplin’s passionate delivery and Rice-Oxley’s knack of giving even the dreariest slowie a chorus that could swell the heart to bursting. Bidding farewell by hinting at an O2 Arena date later in the year, they confirmed that this combination can maintain their status as one of our most popular bands.