The Last Shadow Puppets
When discussing his creative partnership with Miles Kane in a recent interview, Alex Turner revealed: "Writing with Miles, I reach different conclusions than I do on my own. There is a confidence that encourages you to go further down whatever road you are on. When youre on your own [as a frontman], the momentum is kind of your responsibility. When theres two of you, especially if you can get to that place where there is an unspoken understanding, then you generate potentially even more momentum."
With an 8-year gap between The Last Shadow Puppets' impeccable debut album, The Age Of The Understatement (2008) and their sophomore long player, Everything You've Come To Expect (2016). Throughout that time, both Alex and Miles have gone from strength to strength in their respective careers, with Arctic Monkeys now regarded as one of the biggest and best bands on the planet, and Kane firmly establishing himself as a bona fide solo artist, after earlier stints as a member of The Little Flames and The Rascals.
Fans of TLSP, had always held out hope that the pair would reunite and find the time to work together on their side-project again though (along with producer James Ford and string arranger Owen Pallett). So it's no surprise that their comeback was greeted with such fervour that demand for live shows has stretched all over the world, with the group having already played dates across Europe and the USA. The day before their Glastonbury appearance however, Bristol was to be the location for another of their open air concerts, as part of Bristol Harbourside's 'Summer Series 2016'.
As a venue, Bristol Amphitheatre and Waterfront Square are located in the heart of Bristols vibrant Harbourside, which is close to the City Centre. Once a busy working dock where sailors and merchants would trade goods and set sail for voyages of discovery, the Harbourside is now a buzzing commercial area. With heavy rain during the day, thankfully, towards late afternoon the sky began to clear, turning blue and saw the sun shining brightly, which was how the weather and the rest of the evening was to remain until dusk.
With the audience suitably warmed-up by support act, Gaz Coombes, excitable chatter could be heard echoing all around the Amphitheatre in anticipation of The Last Shadow Puppets taking to the stage at 9.00pm. Not content to do things by halves, the band's tour personnel begins with a string quartet, then a drummer, percussionist, bassist and keyboard player all taking their places, before Alex and Miles walk onto adoring cheers and screams! Looking every inch the rock stars, oozing charisma and renowned for their smart sartorial tastes. Alex is wearing a white jacket over his shoulders, a tank top and high-waisted black flares combo, topped-off with a gold chain, John Lennon-esque sunglasses and long slicked-back hair. While Miles, opts for a dapper suit / patterned shirt, a neatly-trimmed beard and suedehead haircut. Dressed to impress and with much laughter and joking between the stylish coupling, you can tell from the outset, that their decade-long friendship is a true 'bromance' (Turner and Kane first met when The Little Flames toured with Arctic Monkeys).
At its core, TLSP's melodic sound certainly has a sepia-toned timeless quality about it, proudly wearing its influences on its sleeve and could even be described as Scott Walker mixed with the breathless seduction of Serge Gainsbourg. Or, as lavish '60s symphonic pop plaited with tremolo guitars (it was Kane who first introduced Turner to this type of music). Having said that though, the group's latest more expansive and varied LP, also sees them branching out into rockier and psychedelic terrain, as well as partly referencing both Arctic Monkeys and Miles' indie roots.
Opening with Sweet Dreams, TN, Alex distinctively croons and strolls around the stage with his microphone, gesturing and fixing the crowd with confident stares, resting his foot on the monitors and when the mood takes him, swinging his jacket over his head while songwriting partner Miles, ably provides the guitar licks. Miracle Aligner is my absolute favourite song by The Last Shadow Puppets and with Alex strapping-on his six-string for the very first time tonight, it's a real thrill to hear this new track live so early into the set! With a laid-back vibe and groove, Turner and Kane sway to the music, as Alex sings: "Tell him what you want and baby he can find you anything you need / Tell him what youre needing, hey, whoa / Come on miracle aligner, go and get em tiger / Get down on your knees, get down on your knees again..."
It's incredible to witness how much Turner has transformed since Arctic Monkeys first burst onto the music scene in the mid-noughties, from a once shy performer into a veritable showman, and as a singer also, the timbre of his voice has really blossomed over the years. The gig progresses with choice cuts from both TLSP records and showcases all sides of their music, so when they arrive at the visceral Bad Habbits, with Miles on powerhouse lead vocals for this one, it sounds like he's been let off the lead as he screams the words: "Bad habits / Sick puppy / Thigh high / Knee deep." Sonically, it's an urgent, swirling cacophony of noise and Kane holds his guitar aloft, throws shapes with wild abandon and frenziedly lunges at the mic as if he almost wants to challenge spectators to a tussle, with Turner seemingly having to calm him down at times. There is a small amount of banter with the audience throughout the evening from both members, and the singles, Everything You've Come To Expect and The Age Of The Understatement are obvious crowd-pleasers!
While the musical chops of Turner and Kane, the way in which they interact and share vocals / harmonise is continuously overawing. The duo's backing musicians are also of an extremely high calibre, whose contributions and textures (which help in reproducing many of the nuances found in TLSP's high-fidelity recordings) are particularly noticeable on another of my most cherished tracks, the majestic My Mistakes Were Made For You. Famed for his natural gift as a wordsmith and having a real eye for poetic detail, often painting pictures with intricate brushstrokes (Alex is frequently and deservedly named as one of the very best lyricists of his generation), I love the lines: "About as subtle as an earthquake I know / My mistakes were made for you / And in the back room of a bad dream, she came / And whisked me away enthused." Musically, this is a mid-tempo number and perfectly encapsulates that cinematic / orchestral feel favoured by The Last Shadow Puppets.
After 15 songs have flown-by, TLSP leave the stage but soon return to gleeful approval for an encore of 3 further tracks, including Standing Next To Me, The Dream Synopsis and Meeting Place. Before the final silky smooth song, Turner says: "I hate goodbyes, Bristol" and it's undoubtedly a fantastic finisher, ending the night on a high note, with everyone onstage taking a collective-bow afterwards and Alex embracing Miles by putting his arm around him, then blowing kisses to the audience.
Although inevitably going back to their other musical pursuits shortly, whether the best buddies' next hiatus will be as lengthy is anyone's guess. But at Bristol Harbourside, with a gorgeous setting and proving that when they do decide to collaborate, just what a terrific band they are, The Last Shadow Puppets delivered everything you've come to expect!
A very special thanks to Caroline @ Domino Record Co, and to Dani @ Plaster Creative Communications, for all of their time and help.
Sweet Dreams, TN