There was a very large queue of people in the evening sun outside Leeds’ O2 Academy, and now they’re all crammed inside but, hardly any of them seem to notice the opening act slip on stage. Zulu Winter slowly build their first song of the evening into a rather fitting, summery tune. They are very much of the skinny jeans, tucked in shirts and side-parting crowd and the music they provide is more or less what you’d expect from them. There are lots of harmonised ‘oohs’ and delicately picked lead guitar lines draped in reverb all set against an upbeat rhythm section.
The second song sees them rev up a notch. Guitarist Henry Walton starts reservedly thrashing around in his corner of the stage, while singer/guitarist Will Daunt alternates between grasping the mic stand, strumming his guitar and waving his hands in the air to add to the angsty feeling of some of the vocal lines. Unexpectedly it is drummer Guy Henderson who seems the most in control, calmly thumping his kit while keyboard player Dom Millard gives it some and bassist Iain Lock engages in some moves that would indicate he hasn’t noticed that some unscrupulous individual has pinched his hula-hoop and just let him carry on oblivious.
This isn’t mind-blowing stuff, it’s not anything that hasn’t been seen before, but in a scene where everything has been seen before they definitely grab the attention. Comparisons could be made to Friendly Fires but also, as they move through the set, aspects of their sound (the dreamscape synths, threaded with twanging guitar leads) come closer to The Killers.
All in all Zulu Winter are a very good choice of support for Keane, they deliver a non-offensive warm up for a crowd who clearly appreciated what they were hearing and let the band know that with healthy cheers and applause as the leave the stage. Despite not having been on the map for a while it appears Keane have not been forgotten and it immediately seems like they will be incapable of doing any wrong tonight. This crowd are definitely seasoned fans.
The punters have an air of having hurriedly ditched the kids with their parents for the evening – an odd, non-descript generation of office jobs, Ikea and barbeques in the gardens of semi-detached houses. But, by the time the second song is a few bars old, the majority of the crowd are up dancing and this doesn’t stop until the house lights go up at the end.
Straight away, frontman Tom Chaplin leaps atop the monitors at the front of the stage and engages his fans with extravagant arm waving and Simon Le Bon-type gestures aplenty. The band, however, remain firmly subdued in the back while their leader bounds around.
The early inclusion of ‘Everybody’s Changing’ gives the crowd their first of many opportunities to give their voices a solid run out. It is clear from the outset that Chaplin is enjoying himself, he exchanges banter with the front row in between songs – various female members of the now quite sweaty mass requesting liaisons with him to be scheduled for after the show.
Hearty renditions of well known, back catalogue tunes raise the bar and change the mood of the show. The feel good factor is seeping in; the nostalgia of the crowd for the older material has hundreds of them singing through broad smiles. The band appear to enjoy the older tracks more too. They relax into them and play more as a four piece as opposed to a showman and his backing band.
Just over an hour into proceedings Tim Rice-Oxley begins bashing out the opening riff of ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ on his keyboard (those keys producing most of the well known guitar riff-sounding bits of all of Keane’s songs). As one of the more high-tempo tunes that they have you would expect it to have some sort of uplifting effect and it does; all of a sudden the remaining two members of the band jolt into life. Richard Hughes’ drums get more of a workout and bass player Jesse Quin steps forward and joins in the fun and games.
The end of the set is closing in and whatever the crowd have left is hollered out during ‘Bedshaped’ with the last line still ringing around the rafters as the band leave the stage. The encore is devoured with the same enthusiasm as we have seen all evening and the final tune of the evening, ‘Crystal Ball’, brings one last sing along and causes everyone who was still using their seats to get to their feet and get involved.
It’s not been a riotous show, it’s not that kind of gig, Keane aren’t that kind of band, but I have rarely seen such universal enjoyment across a crowd and rarely seen a band deliver such a clinical slice of exactly what the people wanted to hear as was on display tonight.