London W1 Social

Our rating:

Go see them play. Give them the devotion they deserve.

They’re battling with drunk hecklers, chattering trendies, intense heat and dodgy instruments. It shouldn’t be like this: [a]Turin Brakes[/a] play songs that demand a hushed awe, a breathless reverence. Tonight, though, this charged, chaotic atmosphere nudges Olly Knight and Gale Paradganian – nerves frayed, hearts pumping – towards a performance of immense grace and power.

Their songs invite comparisons – Bowie on ‘Space Oddity’, Mick Head when he was a Strand, a C&W La‘s – but really, like Coldplay and Jeff Buckley, [a]Turin Brakes[/a] inhabit a space which is entirely their own, fully formed and brutally emotive.

They perch on chairs with their acoustic guitars, Olly like a baby-faced Van Morrison singing with a voice that’s parched and twanging, Gale playing beautiful slide guitar and simple, bluesy lead phrases. They open with ‘The Door’, Nick Drake-ish folk shot through with a dustbowl Americana, and immediately it’s obvious that there’s nothing else these two could be doing, that they’re completely saturated in these songs. Later, the gorgeous minor chord reverie of ‘The Road’ finds Olly with eyes screwed shut, singing through gritted teeth, like his life depends on it.

Then suddenly, as Gale slinks off to procure a new guitar, some beer-stained Northerner bawls, “Play something better!” He claims to “love ’em”, but the crowd turn on him anyway, and as they do Olly – alone in the glare of the lights and visibly flustered – launches into ‘Future Boy’, the gorgeous, spaced strummer featured on the ‘No Division’ compilation a few months back. As it reaches its sublime coda, Gale returns and joins in with harmonies. The crowd applaud in defiance of the dribbling idiot who harangued them, and clap even louder when the song ends.

This is a band who inspire a passionate response. By the end, even those nattering at the bar seem converted. Go buy their ‘The State Of Things’ EP. Go see them play. Give them the devotion they deserve.