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Live Review: Turin Brakes – 15th December 2023 – Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK

4 min read

As a fan of Balham boys Turin Brakes since the band’s 2001 debut, The Optimist LP, it seems like life is passing by at rapid speed. While it feels like only yesterday that the band emerged to offer their unique brand of guitar driven folk-rock/pop through songs like Emergency 72, Slack, State Of Things and breakthrough single, Underdog (Save Me), the time has all of a sudden come to revisit the outfits back catalogue with anniversary shows to celebrate each records 20th birthday starting back in 2021.This year it’s sophomore record, Ether Song that’s blowing out the birthday candles and the lads took up residence in North London’s picturesque Assembly Hall in Islington on Friday night to run through the albums track listing as well as a handful of catalogue heavyweights for good measure.

Throughout the last 20 years we have been lucky enough to see the band play over half a dozen shows and each has been a truly spectacular experience. This weekends performance at Islington Assembly Hall was no different. Perched up on the raised, framed stage the band found their position at around 8.30pm and throughout 90 minutes they delivered record quality live versions of each song from their sophomore album including the ballsy Long Distance, Self Help, which guitarist Gale Paridjanian gave a member of the crowd credit to for knowing the next track on the album – something he admitted as not being achieved throughout the tour – and a gentle, stripped back offering of Stone Thrown. Full Of Stars and Panic Attack, with its Bowie-esque feel, sat perfectly beside Pain Killer (Summer Rain), the bands most successful single to date and one that had the entire audience singing back to frontman Olly Knights during its infectious, ear-worm chorus.

The bands special guest for the night came in the form of keyboardist Dave Palmer who is prolific in his own right, having played on records for the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Fiona Apple and Air over the decades, as well as being a fundamental component in the early Turin Brakes years. Having credits on Esther Song, Palmer was present for the entirety of the Ether Song set and was welcomed back to a gushing speech by Knights for punchy performances of State of Things, Underdog (Save Me) and Slack while fellow encore neighbor Keep Me Around, taken from the bands 2016 record, Lost Property injected the sets most mainstream pop number.

Knights’ vocals were as pitch-perfect, pristine and goosebump-inducing as they have ever been; hitting impressive high nights as well as that standout low note during the bridge of Fishing For a Dream and doing it all with an expression of absolute ease behind his long hair and specs. Knights, in my opinion, is one of the greatest vocalists the UK has seen in many, many years and his confident, seasoned delivery of the band’s sophomore and career notables were consistently nothing short of mind blowing. Beside him, fellow founding member Paridjanian propelled each song with his effortless guitarwork; adding slide guitar twang to several numbers or some impressive, trademark picking to the bands hits beneath his Gorrin Bros cap. Fellow guitarist Eddie Meyer displayed his usual charismatic eccentricities, donning a Turin Brakes long sleeve top and waving his long locks of hair about the stage but never demanding of the spotlight while towering in height drummer Rob Allum remained relatively quiet behind his drum set as his bandmates played centre stage.

The collectives live shows are absolutely extraordinary and entice every emotion out of fans, and at Friday’s show we looked over the crowd to see everyone transfixed during each and every song of the set; eyes positioned forward, watching the band in awe as they performed some of their most well-loved classics like Fishing For A Dream and the stomping closer, Slack. While several older fans jumped up and down in mosh-pit style during several of the bands more upbeat offerings, a woman to my left was seen wiping tears from her face as she was held by her husband during their performance of JackInTheBox’s slow burning, perfectly harmonised ballad, Forever – a display of the foursomes ability to draw on so many different emotions at their shows.

Fridays performance was yet another spectacular performance for Turin Brakes and with appearances at Nocturne Live alongside Crowded House and Sheryl Crow in June and Wayfest in August already cracking the lid on live show announcements for 2024, we can’t wait for summer to roll around and our next chance to see the absolute legends that are Turin Brakes again!
Set list:Blue HourAverage ManLong DistanceSelf HelpFalling DownStone ThrownClear Blue AirPain Killer (Summer Rain)Full of StarsPanic AttackLittle BrotherRain CityEther SongEncore:IsolationUp for GrabsFishing for a DreamForeverKeep Me AroundState of ThingsUnderdog (Save Me)Slack