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Live Review: Turin Brakes – Saturday 10th December 2011 – St Mary’s Church, Brighton, UK

6 min read

When I was back in my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand I worked for a music store and in my time there I was challenged to select a record that I thought had that special something to it. The challenge was to promote and sell this record to as many people as I could. Now, this record wasn’t allowed to be mainstream or an obvious choice, it was to be a new act that I believed in. While looking for my chosen record I came across something on the shelves that would change the way I listen to music and tore down the pop walls that I had been so comfortable hiding behind up to that point. That record was called The Optimist LP and it was from a new band that went by the name of Turin Brakes. I went on to sell the most copies of that record in Australasia and inherited two things along the way, a small crush on guitarist Gale Paridjanian and my new found love for British folk/pop and in particular, Turin Brakes.

The release of The Optimist LP saw in its tenth anniversary in March of this year and to celebrate the achievement of the bands debut the duo set out to deliver the album in its entirety throughout November and December including a performance at London’s Koko and ending within the confines of Brighton’s St Mary’s Church.

After a rather unsuccessful attempt to see the band play at London’s Koko I decided to take to the road and travel to Brighton to see the final date on The Optimist LP tour. Wrapped in a winter coat and scarf to avoid the bitterness of the winter bite I arrived at St Mary’s Church in the seaside town of Brighton in time to position myself for the bands performance of an iconic and personally inspiring album.

As clocks turned 8.15pm the crowd erupted as the band emerged from the back doors of the church and found their place on stage where a Christmas tree had been placed behind the collective and a number of candles had been lit giving the gig an appropriate Christmas feel. Though it was cold and you could see still your breathe in the venue we were quickly warmed up as the duo dove straight into the albums track-listing starting with the album opener, Feeling Oblivion. As the piano intro led us into the quick strumming of Paridjanian’s incredible guitar-work the night was given a sudden injection of nostalgia as the band ran through a sublime set. Vocalist Olly Knight’s vocals were as always on top form with his distinctive tones ringing throughout the venue and showing off the singers pitch perfect and flawless talents behind the mic.

One of the duo’s most well known and commercially successful singles Underdog (Save Me) brought the walls of the church down and the crowd was in full swing as the band played one of their greats with flawless precision.

The band were very gracious throughout they night’s performance often showing the crowd appreciation for the past years years support and their help in making the night possible given the success of their debut record. They often joked with the crowd and amongst themselves showing the humorous side to the duo and their backing band.

Offering us a story of the following Emergency 72 Knight’s explained that the track was the bands demo offering to a man in Brighton which led to the their signing 12 years ago and the creation of The Optimist LP before stating ‘this is where it all began’ which made the crowd feel that they were part of something even more memorable at the final date of the tour.

Filling in the centre of the album’s track-listing segment the band’s performance of their first single The Door was met with a rapturous reception before the sublime and vulnerable State Of Things, a personal favorite of mine, was delivered with both grandeur and beauty.

Nearing the end of the album portion of the set the band’s delivery of Mind Over Money added a further nostalgic dose of folk with its haunting piano intro and the pop laden chorus’ before its dark piano outro led us to the closing of the track and welcomed in the still fresh sounding album closer The Optimist. The band then took a well deserved bow to the audience and left the stage.

After a brief five minutes the duo and co returned to a warm welcome to perform a further two encores containing some more of the band’s post Optimist gems. Among them was a new track, Rescue Squad, which showcased Turin Brakes’ ability to stay at the forefront of modern folk/pop while still retaining the original winning formula that have made them such an adored act.

The band’s most successful hit Painkiller, a song that reached the Top 5 back in 2003 was then offered and had the crowd on their feet along with several energized groups of punters in the front rows cheering the band on before they dove into the spectacular Fishing For A Dream which proved to be one of the highlights of the night as we were given a truly gorgeous moment of balladry before further gold nuggets Rain City, the fan favorite Dark On Fire and Long Distance closed the set and saw the band leave the stage once again.

With the crowd hoping for a couple more hits we weren’t left disappointed as they emerged for a third time to offer us something very special. Leaving their gadgets and speakers behind the duo, along with two of their band members, took to the centre of the crowd with nothing but their voices and two acoustic guitars to perform a very intimate performance of Mirror, a track taken from the band’s last studio release, Outbursts. This was the highlight of the night as we got to get up close and personal with the pair and see them in the most stripped back of settings and witness a display of raw and unquestionable talent. They then returned to the stage to perform their latest single, a cover of Chim Chim Cheree, before departing for a final time.

Tonight’s performance was nothing short of sublime. Not only was it a memorable evening of hits from such a cherished act but it also felt very special to witness a truly iconic record being performed in its flawless entirety, a collection of catalogue favorites and capped off with a couple of new tracks providing the delicious cherry on the top. Last night the crowd at Brighton’s St Mary’s Church was witness to the reason why this band, along with their incredible gift at songwriting, have achieved the success they have in their time and gained such a dedicated following in their ten years and long may that continue.

Set List:

Feeling Oblivion
Underdog (Save Me)
Emergency 72
Future Boy
The Door
State Of Things
By TV Light
The Road
Mind Over Money
The Optimist
Rescue Squad
Fishing For A Dream
Rain City
Dark On Fire
Long Distance
Chim Chim Cheree