Music Reviews

Live Review: The Last Shadow Puppets, London Hackney Empire (01/04/2016)

Alex Turner has entered a realm of endless popularity, and recently many would say he holds an ego which extends from the core of the Earth to far beyond the cyclical outskirts of our universe. Whilst Miles Kane remains far closer to reality, the band manage to encapsulate an endless sense of expectancy. On the day of the release of Everything You’ve Come To Expect, The Last Shadow Puppets take the to the historically reformed Hackney Empire stage in East London with a sense of renewed popularity.
Hyperbole aside – the second album release under The Last Shadow Puppets name manages to create a matured sound. It is clear that the new album has been produced far from the grotty, grey habitats of Liverpool and Sheffield which the two rockers call home. Opening with ‘Calm Like You’, it was obvious from the start that the band relied on strong vocals, and exhilarating guitar riffs. Despite the catchy tune being released almost 8 years ago as part of their debut release The Age Of The Understatement, it seems to have stood the test of time well and appears as relevant now as ever.
‘Bad Habits’ gives the expectant crowd a first glimpse of the 2016 release. It is distant from the glitz and innocence of their youth, instead relating more towards the stereotypical lifestyle of a Californian based rockstar. Quite differently, the single incorporates heavier, effect-ridden guitar riffs and jangled lyrics. In a live setting it does well to build atmosphere and gives us a glimpse into the transformation of the band.
Their latest album was recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studios in California, a place which many refer to as ‘musical heaven’. Much like the naming behind the world famous studios, ‘distant and secluded’ are words which can describe the current lifestyle of the band. Turner moved to LA after recording Suck It And See with the Arctic Monkeys, with Kane following not long after. The beautiful, idealistic lifestyle which the West Coast offers is extremely apparent in the sound and looks of the band. Gone are the days of wearing knackered clothing and dominant Northern accents, instead comes an aura of polished, superior elegance.
Alex’s strong vocal range was displayed through ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’. He is the dominant force in the “Milex” bromance, taking centre stage and ultimately having the stronger presence in the live arena. The majestically restored theatre house provides a great setting; every song reverberates around the room outlandishly, as if this set is a metaphorical James Bond theme song.
“Alex Turner is the dominant force in the “Milex” bromance, taking centre stage and ultimately having the stronger presence in the live arena”
The band were at ease playing alongside a string section. 8 years ago the prospect was entirely new to them, however these days they adapt to it with ease. Special mention has to go to Owen Pallett who scored the string arrangements for the album and live shows. He instantly adds an elaborate aura to the new album tracks, suiting the creative lyricism which accompanies it. In addition, Zach Dawes of LA based band Mini Mansions returns as bassist and features heavily on ‘Miracle Aligner’. Such a collection of musical talent suggests the importance of The Last Shadow Puppets, you have to wonder how big the group could become and what effect that will have on their ‘other’ projects.
Tracks from first album The Age Of The Understatement have been redefined following their return, one can only put this down to the evolution of lifestyle and voice of the band. On the night, Alex’s deeper voice give extra definition to songs such as ‘The Chamber’ and ‘Separate And Ever Deadly’ which comes as a pleasant surprise. The last few Arctic Monkeys albums have seen vocally dominant songs which show off Turner’s voice: ‘Sweet Dreams’ is this album’s equivalent to that. Once again, Kane is merely relegated to the side of the stage to see his bandmate take the spotlight once more.
Quite surprisingly, the band ditch the prospect of playing an Arctic Monkeys song, or even a Miles Kane solo track. Instead, they opt for ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ which is met by resounding cheers to instigate the beginning of the encore. The classic Beatles song in itself epitomises the relationship between the two rockers. Kane appears to be the dominant force for once – his thick Liverpool accent suits the song as well as his effortless guitar playing ability. They close on ‘Standing Next To Me’, the classic, arguably most well known Last Shadow Puppets track. The atmosphere gets warmer as mosh pits open and the odd gig goer begins to crowd surf; it clearly is a fan favourite and the ideal way to end the gig.
It is unfair to describe the band as a ‘side project’. On the day when Everything You’ve Come To Expect was released, London’s Hackney Empire was treated to a riveting, intimate show. With such an effortless, intriguing live performance it is clear that they are still to hit their full potential. The Last Shadow Puppets have the ability to develop into something which can eclipse all that they have ever done before.
Charlie Barnes
Image: Wikimedia
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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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