Review: The Last Shadow Puppets and the curious case of Alex Turner at Summer Series

3.5-stars24th June 2016

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(Photo by Zackery Michael/Press)

The evening after the morning before. In Bristol – where 62 percent of voters were left disappointed by the outcome of the EU Referendum – the first day of Britain as a prospective ex-member of the European Union had been met with bleak skies and torrential downpours that felt like some interventionist reflection of the unremitting gloom emanating from the Remain camp. By the time the third evening of this year’s Summer Series kicks off, a ray of sunshine and a hint of hope has filtered through the clouds and, aside from support act Gaz Coombes’ identification of himself and his band as “European,” it’s an evening refreshingly – and perhaps necessarily – devoid of political focus.

In fact, on the watch of frontmen Alex Turner and Miles Kane, there is scant audience interaction in any form and the curious case of Turner’s evolving into either an ironic genius of stage craft or a preening egotistical embarrassment is enough to distract anyone from the impending repercussions of Brexit. Thus, Turner – somewhere between Italian-American gangster and camp matador – strolls on to the stage in snug white vest, laughably high-waisted black flared trousers, no socks and a white jacket draped over both shoulders.

Opener ‘Sweet Dreams Tennessee’, its staccato drums and guitars recalling Roy Orbison’s ‘Running Scared,’ sees Turner affect hand on heart gestures and showy posturing as he leans forward with one foot on his foldback monitor. “It’s been far too long baby, I’ve missed you very much” his slightly bizarre transatlantic drawl aims vaguely in the audience’s direction in introduction to ‘Calm Like You.’ However, Turner’s undeniable gifts are evidenced in his captivating romantic croon and fine song-writing of the gorgeous ‘Miracle Aligner.’

The Last Shadow Puppets are not all about Turner of course and Kane, without the mop-top of yore and now sporting a crew cut, is a sturdy presence of dynamic guitar work and powerful vocals. ‘The Age of The Understatement,’ a moody belter of enticing strings and Kane’s adroitly fractured leads, induces a huge audience cheer and the throwing of drinks.

Appearing mid-set, ‘Bad Habits’ is an energetic gear shift and sees Kane take centre stage with the brutal attack of his vocals while elsewhere he adds tasteful vibrato to standout tune ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You.’

The band setup mainly comprises a unit of nine or ten musicians: mostly three guitars, drums, bass, keyboard/mellotron and a small string section of cello and two violins. While the band undeniably has quality material at its disposal, the sound at times comes over a little thin; while this may be attributed to standing in a position left of stage and a slight breeze across the amphitheatre, one ponders over the epic baroque pop sound that would result if a larger orchestra, as has been utilised for other live appearances, were to be employed. For their part, the strings do occasionally soar such as in the high drama of ‘In My Room.’

Turners’ laughable but equally watchable stage manner of flamboyant gesturing, dramatic gyrations and ridiculous posturing sometimes strays into his deeply crooning the word “Bristol” between songs and brief non-sequiturs (“Is everybody alright? I worry sometimes. What a wonderful evening.”) By the time we get to the encore, Turner stands at the edge of the stage to offer flirtation to the mass of imploring arms stretching out from the front of the crowd.

Whether or not Turner is taking the piss is largely redundant by the time the beautiful closer ‘Meeting Place’ offers up a welcome reminder that it’s his obvious talent from which we should draw our conclusions.

Scott Hammond