Keane are one of those bands it’s uncool to like. But I’m a sucker for a tune. And they have plenty. And these Sherwood Pines gigs are actually pretty good y’know.

Date: June 19, 2010

Venue: Sherwood Pines, Sherwood Forest

By now you’ll be familiar with these Forestry Commission gigs at Sherwood Pines Visitor Centre.

Surrounded by trees, wild animals and, for these gigs at least, burger vans, it’s the perfect setting for a night of unabashed pop music.

Simply Red did their thing on Friday, appeasing the older (or should that be discerning?) music lover, while tonight Keane roll into the Forest ‘for the kids’. But hang on….where exactly are all the kids? Where are the young scenesters, and the indier-than-thou fashionistas?

They’re miles away in a Hockley bar of course, shuddering at the thought of watching ‘them, like, so uncool posh sods from darn sarf’ somewhere with a breeze that might ruin their jaunty haircuts.

You see the problem with Keane is that they’re just not cool. They try to be – a little too much sometimes perhaps – but it doesn’t cut with the ‘yoof’. Never has done, never will do. They’re like your dad saying that he “quite likes that Busy Rascal fella”. It’s all a bit embarrassing.

But deep down Keane know they’re not cool, so won’t mind us saying it. They’ve gotten used to the critics that spout vicious and undeserved snobbery, and have continued with their work ethic regardless; they’ve stuck to their guns and are proud of their output. And so is this sell-out crowd of, shall we say, wiser folk.

As they saunter onto the stage, dominated by a huge curtain that simply reads their collective name (later to reveal the colourful train-themed artwork of their new record), there’s a rush that threatens to swallow up the picnic baskets and fold-up chairs that are so common at these gigs.

Tom Chaplin, the hitherto moon-faced posho with the drug problem, looks lean and healthy. He’s such a confident performer that the uneasiness of yonder only manifests briefly during the evening, when a track from their underwhelming new record sees swathes of non-fussed punters heading for the bars, toilets and food stalls.

But where once he’d struggle to stay calm, spluttering wildly and recoiling into self-doubt and subsequently depression and drug abuse, he bounces back with those aces he’s had up his sleeve since Hopes and Fears captured everyone’s imagination back in 2003. Well, everyone apart from those trendy magazines who derided them for daring to write all-encompassing pop songs without guitars, that is.

And on the subject of both guitars and Hope and Fears, what’s this we can see? A guitarist? And what’s that Tom’s holding? Is it a guitar? It is you know.

But rather than meekly give into those critics who lamented loudly that the band were just too wet without the metallic cry of a guitar, they’ve simply taken stock of their oeuvre and expanded their sound from piano, synths and drums when they felt it needed it, and those immaculately conceived pop songs like ‘Bend & Break’ and ‘Everybody’s Changing’ now sound revitalised and stellar.

‘Spiraling’, with its shameless glitzy 80s funk; ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ with its stadium-sized chorus and heart-pumping joy, and ‘Crystal Ball’, the song you’d forgotten you loved, all sound tailor-made for this pastoral environment beneath the sky.

But it’s ‘This Is The Last Time’ which melts everyone into a collective sea of gushing affection. It’s as brilliantly tactile and emotive as it was upon its release in 2003, and despite its plot of regret, confusion and separation, it manages to sound like the most hopeful and majestic song ever written.

As ‘Bedshaped’ wafts through the chilly air during the encore, bringing tears to the eyes of grown men, Keane have won yet again.

They’ve realised that they’re among friends – friends who care little about the bad words written about them. Friends who might be nearer to a bus pass than a Uni Card, and friends who will forever savour their unfashionable but hyper-melodic pop music.


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