The Goya, Berlin, 6/11
On Wednesday 6th November Music Screen broadcast a Keane gig live from Berlin to around 500 cinemas worldwide, an experience that was touted as “better than being there.” It’s a sign of our increasingly digital world that even music concerts are becoming intangible. Perhaps holograms in place of actual performers will take off after all: see Tupac’s posthumous appearance at the Coachella music festival in 2012.
Keane’s concert in Berlin was in support of their Best of Keane compilation album to celebrate a wildly successful career spanning the past ten years, encompassing five number 1 albums. I can’t say whether or not sitting in Cineworld eating Maltesers while watching a euphoric crowd singing hits like ‘Everybody’s Changing’ was “better than being there” because I actually was there. I don’t even know whether or not I appeared on screen, as I was standing behind piles of recording equipment and cameramen singing along to Keane’s hits as they pushed the camera back and forth.
Only 300 tickets were sold for this exclusive performance and after a few sweaty minutes one morning in the University Library a few weeks ago I managed to procure a pair. The venue was Goya, an Art Deco building in the centre of Berlin. It was a very intimate setting, with camera equipment serving as a constant reminder of the uniqueness of the event. The band – Tom Chaplin (vocals), Tim Rice-Oxley (piano), and Richard Hughes (drums) – appeared without bassist Jesse Quin, who was at home with the birth of his second child imminent but it quickly became apparent that this is a live act at the peak of their powers.
Keane’s third album Perfect Symmetry was partly recorded in Berlin. Despite them only playing two songs from that album – the title track and ‘Spiralling’ – the music suddenly acquired even more meaning in the context of this creative city. The pressure of the broadcast materialised in the form of Chaplin uncharacteristically fluffing his lyrics a few times, but the superb atmosphere was hardly tampered by these mistakes.
‘A Bad Dream’ was abandoned after a false start and had to be started again, much to the amusement of the adoring crowd. The visuals in the background were an interesting backdrop to their live set. There were eerie moving images of young couples in gas masks that had been recycled from the tour for second album Under the Iron Sea, and a stop motion animation film of a forlorn young man during ‘Nothing In My Way’ added to the melancholy of the music. A vast, wintry landscape during ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ conjured many feelings of nostalgia and made the audience think of where the band are headed next. Like Mark Twain, reports of Keane’s demise – or rather, their split – have been greatly exaggerated: the band are going on hiatus.
“Better than being there”? This experience has shown me that, as Lily Allen’s cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ in this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert proves (the current number 1 single in the UK), it doesn’t get much better than the real thing.