Keane: Strangers [DVD]

Jason MacNeil

Three guys, no guitar, one glorious, sweepingly majestic record after seven years of no luck. A better 2-DVD set for a band with one studio album you won't find.


Strangers [DVD]

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2005-11-22
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Keane made the most of a great opportunity in late 2003. The British trio stepped in at the last moment for Rooney, who was opening a series of gigs for Travis as they toured behind 12 Memories. Unable to make a Toronto gig, Keane proved to be a fantastic substitute with songs that would see their way onto its widely acclaimed Hopes and Fears. Now, with the brouhaha having died down as they go to work on album two, the group's first DVD is an interesting piece of film that shines on a number of levels.

While it might be a bit much for someone to sit through the entire three hours and 20 minutes that is available here on the two-DVD release, the presentation makes for an excellent flow. Each DVD is split into the following format: 30 minutes of a documentary, roughly 30 minutes of live performances and then the remainder of hidden bonus features and extra, ranging from British and American video versions of "Somewhere Only We Know" and "Everybody's Changing" to photo galleries and behind-the-scenes footage. But what seems to put the DVD over the top is how, despite all the fame and quick rise to the top, the trio of lead singer Tom Chaplin, keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley and drummer Richard Hughes comes off with about as much rock and roll persona or cockiness as a part-time library assistant. "If people think we look uncool now this is a different league altogether," Rice-Oxley says of the band's earlier phase.

Although the documentary is not breaking any new ground when it comes to showing how mundane, tedious and at times gruelling the other 22 hours can be spent on the road, there's a very refreshing way director Ed Roe goes about it, following them everywhere and including some very early footage when they were a foursome with guitars. (The group's first show was recorded, but only after one of their moms recorded some other act named Coldplay and then recorded over Chris Martin and company.) Whether it's the Q Awards where they earn Best Album, doing sound checks at Radio City Music Hall or a horrible gig at Atlanta's Midtown Music Festival, Roe manages to get what is basically at the heart of this band: three normal guys confronting what the music machine is capable of.

As for the live performances, there are several which are extremely good and features a few new songs that were not found on the North American version of the album. Although the weakest performance is the hymnal "Hamburg Song", songs recorded in Chicago as well as London's Wireless Festival are great. "Somewhere Only We Know", recorded at London's Brixton Academy, has the baby-faced (and hints of baby fat on that face) Chaplin being drowned out by the sold-out crowd while "This Is the Last Time" shows the three of them in a sweaty mess. A personal favorite however is "On a Day Like Today", which is a soft, simple ballad that seems to hit all the right spots at exactly the right times. Not to be outdone is the slow-building but explosive "We Might As Well Be Strangers".

The biggest problem for some people might be the format. Some used to one DVD featuring the documentary and one featuring the live footage might be put off by this arrangement. But with the special features, you feel like you're watching one long documentary, with the live footage accessible in this area. As well, there are some great bonus clips, including the group doing their version of U2's "With Or Without You" and the group doing a duet with Rufus Wainwright on "Try Again".

But the DVD's tone and theme is encapsulated perfectly in a montage of "Bedshaped" that shows footage of the band playing in a living room before showing their ascent to their status as one of rock's best new acts, playing larger venues until you see thousands singing along to the song, then concluding with where it all started. While Keane were strangers to you for nearly 10 years, their sound is here to stay. This DVD only reinforces that fact.


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