In front of a near-capacity crowd at The Pabst Theater on Saturday night, British band Keane delivered an impressive performance that spanned its whole catalog.
Touring in support of its new album, "Strangeland," released last month, the band found the perfect balance between incorporating new material while playing the established hits from its previous three albums.
When lead singer Tom Chaplin asked The Pabst crowd if it liked the new album, he received a large cheer. Smiling, Chaplin said that he felt safe asking such a question in a room full of Keane fans. When one fan toward the front of the stage screamed out a request at Chaplin, he coolly replied, "You'll get it eventually, don't worry."
The four-piece band is a bit different from its contemporaries in that the songs are piano- and/or synthesizer-driven. This has also led to some criticism that Keane's songs all sound alike, but while a few blend together, the overall set had a great flow that was very pleasing.
Vocally and musically, the band sounded exceptionally crisp and this definitely was the type of show that could easily have been recorded for a concert CD or DVD. Dynamic lighting, including a few blasts of intense strobe lights, added to the drama of the performance.
The biggest highlight from the set was the audience sing-along to "This Is The Last Time" from Keane's first album, "Hopes and Fears." "Everybody's Changing," "Is It Any Wonder," "Bend And Break" and "Somewhere Only We Know" were among the songs that drew some of the biggest reactions from the crowd.
The first level of The Pabst all stood, while the balcony and mezzanine areas remained seated throughout the general admission show. That didn't mean that the upper levels lacked die-hard fans, as it included a group that raised the U.K.'s Union Jack flag after almost every song.
The signature move of the night came when Chaplin approached the edge of the stage and punctuated the chorus of a faster-paced song by throwing his fist into the air. As he repeated it throughout the night, the fans in the first level repeated that arm motion, creating a visual effect more expected at a European soccer match than a Keane concert.
Chaplin also had a few moments where his crowd interaction felt like it was coming from a template. Early in the show, he addressed the crowd by saying how it was great to be back in Milwaukee and to "see your faces again ... some new ones, as well." He also worked in a reference to the Bronze Fonz at a point where he could probably insert a landmark in whichever city the band was performing.
Still, this apparent scriptedness didn't diminish the crowd's appreciation for the band. At one point, during a silent break between songs, The Pabst audience gave a second post-song wave of applause and adulation which caught Chaplin off-guard. "I don't need to say anything to get you all excited," he said, impressed by the unexpected burst.
The set ended with a rousing performance of Keane's most recent single, "Sovereign Light Café." The band returned to the stage for a three-song encore that began with "Sea Fog" from the new album.
Keane closed out the evening with the title track of its second album, "Under the Iron Sea." It was a perfect cap on the show, and as fans spilled out onto Wells Street, multiple individuals were still singing the chorus of this last tune.
With more than 10 million records sold, Keane knows what its fans like and how to put on a great, crowd-pleasing show.
Opening act Patrick Watson made a distinct impression to kick off the night. He and his band played their first song in almost complete darkness, with the only illumination coming from Green Lantern-esque light rings on some of their fingers.
With a voice reminiscent of Coldplay's Chris Martin, Watson showed an extensive falsetto range. Hailing from Montreal, Watson has won the Polaris Music Prize, which is the Canadian version of the Grammy.
While his set might have run about two songs too long, Watson still received a standing ovation throughout most of theater, an impressive accomplishment for an opening act. With four albums under his belt, he has plenty of material for newly converted fans to dive into.