Keane: Curate a Night for War Child

B.J. Carter

Considering the effervescence of the performances, what other than this warm, bubbly feeling could have been its aim?


Curate a Night for War Child

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Eagle Rock
US Release Date: 2008-09-30

Much like the band’s personality, Keane Curate a Night for War Child is slight, meek, and not without affable charm. Whether by choice or necessity, eschewing the swollen , outsized nature of spectacles like Live 8 lends brighter spotlight to the charity itself. The audience is less likely to mistake the event for yet another summer festival gig, which is a good thing for War Child, even if some of the performers, like Brendan Benson, make no effort to disguise the fact that they know embarrassingly little about the charity in whose name they are performing (for the record, War Child is a non-profit organization providing aide to child victims of war. On 1 November 2007, the night of the gig, War Child was entrenched in Southern Iraq). I

In fact, their ignorance only highlights the modest nature of some of the most effective charities. For if celebrities were honest with the rest of us, they would admit that their efforts in “raising awareness” of pressing yet frustratingly hidden issues are often simultaneously dedicated to raising awareness of their awareness of said pressing yet frustratingly hidden issues. In an age of spiteful spectatorship, picking the right charity can go a long way in protecting social capital.

An unfair criticism, to be sure. If there is one sector of civic life that is beyond reproach, it’s community service. Nonetheless, the increasing commoditization of philanthropy, slung over the shoulders of multiplying celebrities and faux-celebrities like accessories, often has the tragic consequence of overshadowing noteworthy causes.

The low-key personalities and performances that Keane assemble here ensure that no such upstaging takes place. Beginning with Teddy Thompson’s purposeful dressing of “(From Now On All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers,” War Child feels like a gathering of casual friends and local musicians at the town hall for a seven o’clock Thursday night revue, more Billy Bragg than Bono. Keane crooner Tom Chaplin, dressed in unflatteringly tight black jeans, introduces the event with such awkward yet bubbling praise you might suspect he was unveiling a high school bake sale. Barely clearing an hour and a half, it certainly feels like a weeknight at Brixton Academy, but then again, a 1.5 million pound target is nothing to sneeze at.

The guest list includes Lily Allen, Brendon Benson, Teddy Thompson, The Magic Numbers, Findlay Brown, Guillemots, and Pete Shop Boys, but -- and this may be the only time you read these words in print--Keane easily gives the most electric performance of the bunch, hop-scotching through Under the Iron Sea barnstormer “Crystal Ball” and even pulling off an ebullient cover of “Under Pressure.” Sure, they’re the hosts of the event and should thus aim to please, but that’s no excuse for handily outperforming synth-pop legends Pet Shop Boys.

Now, what this bit of news implies for the other War Child acts relies heavily on your imaginative capacity to cede to Keane’s abilities as a live act. Frankly, if the idea that Keane is capable of producing a spirited if brief live set is too much of a stretch, than your interest in this release is probably non-existent to begin with.

The other acts aren’t bad by any standard: Teddy Thompson, looking fraught with acid thoughts, is in top vocal form on the two songs he sings with string accompaniment. The Magic Numbers inject just the right dosage of stomp and soul into the Jenny Lewis-like “Love Me Like You.” Lily Allen, God bless her, rolls out of bed just in time for an off-hand take on her signature “Smile” and Keane’s “Everybody’s Changing.”

As a performance gesture, however, the gig is essentially flawed in the same way that Keane, in its current incarnation, is flawed: It’s nice, it’s there, but it’s far from captivating. For an evening built on modesty, intimacy, and feel-good causes, somehow the good feeling never materializes in the living room. Considering the effervescence of the performances, what other than this warm, bubbly feeling could have been its aim? But alas, the night’s victor, insofar as one emerged, is easily Keane for being good hosts, good sports, and good performers

As benefits go, War Childhas it nearly right, portraying communal sensibilities alongside playful if generally unaffecting performances. As music documentaries go, it’s a snooze. If way back on the night of the event the organizers had sent around a sheet for fans to sign up for a copy of the forthcoming concert DVD (from which a generous portion of the proceeds might go to the War Child fund) then maybe, maybe it would have been worth the purchase. As it stands, War Childis hardly essential viewing.






'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.