South London melody makers Turin Brakes have ditched their band for a keyboard-playing Texan, a Jesus lookalike called Dave Palmer, and are delivering an acoustic tour. Tonight’s Shepherds Bush performance is the penultimate gig of this eight-stop tour and a crowded house has gathered. Lead singer Olly Knight explains to the seated masses that these more intimate, low-key performances are the heart of the band’s history and the crux of their song writing. So, with their second album due for release in a couple of months, it really is about time we got down to their grass roots.
Opening with two old favourites, Future Boy and The Door, it’s obvious their idea has worked and the crowd are thrilled. But this performance is not only about bringing in the old but also about the new and we are treated to a plethora of songs from the second album, to be entitled Ether Song. Their unique folksiness and soaring harmonies are captured and continued in The Stone and Self-help. The boys are on form, happy to be back home and comfortable to chat with the crowd. The first half of tonight’s performance is definitely one to remember.
Their next single release, Long Distance, is a major crowd pleaser and its story of love found and lost is sure to wrench at the heart strings. However it seems to affect even the band members themselves for in mid-song Olly excuses himself and heads off stage. All are a bit bewildered, including his sidekick, Gale, as he fumbles nervously and attempts banter with the crowd. He and Dave resort to a two-minute instrumental to appease the questioning audience. Five minutes later Olly returns to a roaring applause, explains that he must be having a mental breakdown and starts the song over again. It’s all a bit of a mystery and theories as to the possible painful reality of this song’s story abound through the crowd. Maybe it’s more simple than that and Olly’s to cool to mention he needed a toilet break?
While the second half of their performance delivers more of the Mercury-nominated tunes of their first album such as Underdog (Save Me) and Mind Over Money, Olly has lost some of his enthusiasm and crowd-charming skills. Nonetheless, this band have a loyal following and we continue to sing and enjoy. Finishing on Emergency 72, it almost feels like I’m hanging out with the boys and a handful of their followers. This band deserves so much success, but let’s keep it selfishly to a minimum or we may lose this intimacy.