It was October 2008 when The Last Shadow Puppets last toured the UK so naturally there is a tangible buzz around Edinburgh’s Usher Hall before Alex Turner and Miles Kane take to the stage. Of course, a lot has happened since then; these are not the same 22 year old guys who released ‘The Age of the Understatement’ eight years ago. Much has been about Turner’s transformation from Sheffield likely lad to rock’n’roll megastar; his quiff preened to perfection with that unmistakable Elvis-like twang added to his deep, northern drawl. Meanwhile, following his time with The Rascals, Kane has gradually amassed a following of his own with his solo career, proving that he can no longer be cast off as a mere sidekick to his fellow frontman.
Of course, it’s their bromance that lies at the heart of The Last Shadow Puppets and this is clear straight from the off. Turner looks refreshed following some time off from the day job; those swinging snakehips are back with a vengeance as he caresses his hair and chinos full of self-admiration. In contrast to this camp performance across the stage, Kane takes on an aggressive swagger akin to his indie rock playboy status; his behaviour in a recent interview with a female reporter showing that this behaviour is perhaps not just confined to the stage. Their presence in one another’s company appears to egg them on even further, bathing in the crowd’s loud adoration with the levels of self-love on show nearly reaching parodic status. It would be annoying if the music wasn’t so damn great.
They are backed by a three-piece band tonight along with a small string section, giving them that unique noir-pop, cinematic sound that was so brilliantly arranged by Owen Pallett on the previous record. They kick things off with the jittering waltz of ‘Calm Like You’ followed by ‘Bad Habits’, the first new song to be heard from the duo when it was revealed back in January. It is dirty, punky and even more explosive live than on record with that sneering delivery from Kane. Two strong openers, yes? Well, in comes the right hook in the shape of ‘The Age of the Understatement’, the galloping title track from the debut album.
With a crowd full of people used to bouncing their way through an Arctic Monkeys gig, the energy is palpable in the room and the two frontmen use this to their favour, cranking up the atmosphere with every posture and rare moments of chatter; ‘this is a juicy audience’, Turner declares. They have their own superfans it seems, ready to sing along word-perfect to a mix of the old and new.
However, given that the new album, ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’, is out next week, this isn’t a night set aside for crowd-pleasers. There’s nine new songs on show, many of which have been unheard till now; this inevitably creates a small lull in the middle of the set with the crowd so eager for participation. But in spite of what their album title suggests, the duo aren’t ready to meet any expectations.
In the new material on show, The Last Shadow Puppets play with a number of genres and influences; Turner finally has the opportunity to approach areas he would never dream of going with the Arctic Monkeys. There are flashes of punk, seventies soul and psychedelia, particularly on the title track, ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’. Owen Pallett’s sweeping string arrangements are as impressive as before; the overall sound may lack the urgency of the previous record but they are equally important, sounding very much at home in the grand surroundings of the Usher Hall. ‘Miracle Aligner’, woozy with its slick harmonies, and ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ with that signature croon from Turner are perhaps the most enjoyable.
An encore follows, featuring a faithful rendition of The Beatles’ ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy), an inspired choice and a real highlight of the gig which goes down a storm. The night is then brought to a close with the duo finally deciding to get it on and lovingly share a microphone for ‘Standing Next To Me’, much to the fans’ appreciation.
Alex Turner and Miles Kane may be full of their own importance but tonight they prove that The Last Shadow Puppets is more than a mere exercise in self-indulgence, as other people have suggested. They’re an exciting partnership, always ready to challenge expectations. Long may it continue.
This Last Shadow Puppets review was written by Suzanne Oswald, a GIGsoup contributor.