Live: Turin Brakes @ The Brook, Southampton.
Situated on the edge of a trading estate, The Brook is one of the more eclectically situated venues in the south of England and not one where you’d necessarily expect a Mercury nominated band to play. However the lack of local parking spaces, and a steady stream of people walking into the 600 capacity venue tells you that after sixteen plus years together, Turin Brakes could play a bus shelter and still draw a crowd.
Fronted by longtime friends Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, they’re best remembered for their first two releases, 2001s The Optimist and 2003s Ether Song, but throughout their career their frequent changes of style have kept them an interesting and musically satisfying band to follow. And this theme of change remains apparent on their latest release Lost Property, that’s created a renewed interest in the band of late.
They’re supported by the really likeable Tom Speight, who’s guitar based tunes are a perfect lead in. Although the “singer songwriter with an acoustic guitar” genre has plenty of proponents, Tom weaves an interesting personal slant into both the introductions and the songs themselves, especially on Love and Willow Tree. However the best moment is saved until the end, with the last song being sung purely via his guitar mic which gives it a slightly other world and remote character to it which is really original.
There’s a short break to top up glasses before Turin Brakes emerge from the back of the stage, nearly tripping over the drum kit, but to rapturous applause from the now packed house. Given their years together, you’d be forgiven for expecting Gale and Olly to take a safe route of relying on their rich back catalogue to keep the crowd happy. But thankfully that’s not the case and they kick the evening off with three songs from the new album including the latest single Keep Me Around, and the title track, Lost Property.
But the other thing that’s noticeable (and this counts for both the new and the old songs) is the richness of the performance that’s difficult to describe, partly thanks to Olly’s instantly recognizable vocals, and Gale’s restrained but technically superb guitar breaks. It’s sort of like the musical equivalent of a warm bath that makes you believe that everything is good in the world, and which makes the next 80 minutes go just that little bit too quickly. It helps that the band still have their original line up including Rob Allum on drums and Eddie Myer on bass who’s clearly the “class clown” and brings a humour and energy to the team that’s quite infectious. One moment he’s crouched respectfully during the quiet intro to a song, and the next he springs into action, whirling and dueling with Olly centre stage. He even admitted to having made a jazz album!
As you’d expect, they do make space for a good selection of the older songs, including the excellent Sea Change, We Were Here, and probably their best known song Painkiller, all of which are gleefully received. However the high point of the night comes in the shape of a new song Black Rabbit. Clocking in at over 6 minutes, it’s uncharacteristically long for the band, and starts slowly and gloomily before a wave of sound lifts you up courtesy of a sublime slide guitar solo from Gale. It’s a great way to end the main set, and sets the scene perfectly for my personal favourite, Underdog in the encore.
So, after all that it’s a real disappointment when it all ends and we all had to traipse back out into the freezing weather and the reality of the trading estate. Watching Turin Breaks tonight has been like a dinner party with old friends; very civilized and enormous fun. But best of all, the Turin Brakes playlist never has any dodgy songs on it!
Review by Andy Sampson at The Brook, Southampton 24th February 2016
Andy has more of this photography on his personal website Sound Ritual. http://www.soundritualphotos.co.uk/