Fresh from playing State’s park-themed -intervention’ and emerging on stage around 30 seconds after England’s humiliating Word Cup draw against Algeria (no coincidence, we’re sure), Turin Brakes‘ Whelan’s show quickly demonstrates their status as a genuine British cult band. The Whelan’s crowd tonight consists of at least a third -Brits on the road’, and with Turin Brakes having been away for a decade, the Irish contingent – including Fionn Regan, their support act from their last Whelan’s performance back in 2000 – has packed the venue to the rafters.
The two-piece, complete with impressive and charismatic backing from their stage bass player Danny Keane – are in a crowd-pleasing mood, performing a host of tracks from stand-out early albums The Optimist and Ether Song in their distinctively laid back style. Focusing heavily on atmospherics in their live show, an initially rowdy crowd was gently wowed into a sense of hushed reverence, nodding along as the charming twosome flitter through track after track of low-charting hits. Like many a cult band, though, Turin Brakes’ fans love them more for their back catalogue than their hits. Top five smash -Painkiller’ passes with barely a whisper, while sparkling early moments like -Future Boy’ bring the house down.
Bravely, Turin Brakes aren’t above the odd cover, and pause halfway through for an acoustic stage-front -someone else’s song’ moment, hushing the crowd and singing above the sound of clinking glasses from the bar as they run through a cover effort more memorable for its atmospherics than the throwaway pop tune itself.
Half way through the set, Olly reveals that Turin Brakes have recently been dropped by their record label, -but we’ve always said we’d carry on regardless’. In truth, this is a band that still thrives on its older material. While -Dark On Fire’ and latest effort -Outbursts’ are perfectly adequate and even enticing filler live, they just lack the heartfelt songwriting and touching lyrics that made the duo a name to watch in the first place. For all the snappy highlights and moments of emotional turmoil, we find ourselves drifting into -same old’ territory at the end: as good as Turin Brakes are at what they do, they just don’t have a whole lot else to offer. -Sea Change’ and -Stalker’ illustrate the feeling just perfectly: for half a set, we’re captivated, but come the end the magic’s just about rubbed right off.
Photos: James Goulden.