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Live Review: Turin Brakes – 9th October 2021 – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK

4 min read

It’s been a long 18 months since we last attended any form of live event. 18 painfully long months! And by the conversations overheard by punters at West London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night, it was a strange yet incredibly welcoming feeling to be back within the walls of one of the capitals most vibrant entertainment spaces once again.

The live music industry has taken a pretty mammoth hit over the last year and a half thanks to the Covid pandemic causing the Empire and all spaces alike to keep their doors firmly bolted. As one of the last industries to feel a sense of relax, their return to business as usual has allowed many fairly dormant bands to dust off their equipment and return to the road and Balham born quartet, Turin Brakes have done just that recently with their return to the stage. But this time it’s not to promote a new release but to celebrate a milestone. The bands iconic debut, The Optimist LP recently exited its teenage years and turned 20 and the lads have gifted us with a tour in support of that anniversary to play all of the songs from that debut, along with a few gems from within the bands extensive catalogue.

Turin Brakes reminded us last night just why we have missed live music as much as we have and why live music and the industry plays such a pivotal role in our lives. It was great to be back in such a vibrant and creative environment after so long, and what better band to have welcomed us back that the icons that are Turin Brakes.

In true anniversary fashion, the entire of Mercury Award nominated The Optimist LP was performed, chord for chord with several of the albums notables garnishing standing ovations from sections of the packed venue. Highlight hit Underdog (Save Me) injected a dose of radio friendly commercialism into a set otherwise firmly positioned in folk-rock.

The crowd relished in singing along to punchy album numbers State of Things and Slack while slow burners Emergency 72 and Starship had the crowd hanging on to every note to fall out of frontman Olly Knights mouth as he turned out an evening of vocal mastery; with his founding band mate, Gale Paridjanian providing the set with a patchwork of epic guitar riffs and faultless picking unheard by many of the major players in music.

Drawing attention to the fact that “many people had to make the decision to come out tonight”, Knights often thanked the crowd for coming to see the quartet as they made their return to London stages and the world of touring after such a lengthy and involuntary hiatus. While Paridjanian made the occasional joke around his bandmates use of less-traditional instruments within some of the songs on the set list, Knights would offer up periodic anecdotes ahead of some of the nights numbers; his story about being 15 years old and writing the lyrics to Future Boy while waiting for a train at Pimlico station adding further insight into the creation of tonight’s highlight album.

Ending the album set with LP closer, The Optimist, the band then offered the crowd a new track in the form of appropriately titled, Isolation; showcasing another hit delivered in more of the bands most current pop-orientated style but still retaining the essence of what made Turin Brakes a Mercury prize nominated band two decades ago.

With two encores prepared for fans, Fishing For A Dream and another of the bands staple early career singles, Painkiller (Summer Rain) found their rightful places, but it was the exquisitely charged performance of Sea Change from 2010’s Outburts that was the overall highlight of the whole nights set and reminded us yet again why this band are so highly regarded on the live circuit and carry such a large and dedicated fanbase.

Closing the evening we were offered We Were Here and Keep Me Around; the band receiving their 3rd standing ovation for the night and no better way for the band to end such a momentous and memorable night of hits and nostalgia. Casually dressed for the occasion in an open plaid shirt, shaggy hair and grey sweatpants, the lightning bolt emblazoned across the front of Knights’ T-shirt seemed appropriate because the night was nothing short of electric!

Setlist:
Feeling Oblivion
Underdog (Save Me)
Emergency 72
Future Boy
The Door
State of Things
By TV Light
Slack
Starship
The Road
Mind Over Money
The Optimist

Encore:
Isolation
Lost In The Woods
Black Rabbit
Sea Change
Fishing For A Dream
Painkiller (Summer Rain)

Encore 2:
We Were Here
Keep Me Around