To poorly paraphrase the great Louis Armstrong I usually categorise music three ways; music I like, music I don’t like, and music I’ve never heard. There is another very small sub-set in my musical affections which Turin Brakes have hitherto occupied: Music I quite like.
I have a few of their albums, but it’s definitely true to say that I’ve never given myself over fully to their charms. And I’m not really sure why. When they’re good, they’re certainly very good and all I can think is that I’ve never really given them the chance that they deserve. They certainly defy easy categorisation, which is a quality that I always find appealing, and their ability to completely sidestep the fashions of the music industry gives them the ability to sound like a great band from the 1970s, probably the heyday of acts that refused to conform or be manipulated.
I shouldn’t really have been surprised to find The Cluny as packed as I’ve possibly ever seen it for this performance at the tail end of a tour to promote their recent Lost Property album. Without any opportunity to stand on ceremony, and after a strong support set by a well-received Tom Speight, the band storm straight into three of Lost Property’s best tracks, ‘96’ with its acoustic, strummed opening is a typical Turin Brakes tune, ‘Keep Me Around’ a single recently elevated to Radio 2 earworm status and the album’s title track, ‘Lost Property’, deep and rich and possibly the best of the three.
In a live setting I’m starting to fully understand the band (and their fans) for the first time, and, given that the album was only released a few weeks ago, the new tunes seem almost as familiar to the audience as the older ones, with many singing along to these new acquaintances as if they were treasured old friends.
There’s a mixture of laid-back favourites such as ‘Painkiller’, one of the best of the night which ushered in much more dancing than I was expecting, and new tracks like ‘Jump Start’ with its unashamedly soft rock Tom Petty melodies destined to be a live favourite for years to come. In fact, ‘Jump Start’ ushers in a mid-set purple patch that also includes ‘Last Chance’ and ‘Save You’. By this point the band are well and truly buoyed up by the positive crowd reaction and the favourites start to come very thick and extremely fast; ‘Emergency 72’ with its easy lyric turns into one big mutual singalong.
Across two encores come the most stirring tracks of the night. It’s no surprise that ‘Underdog (Save Me)’ makes an encore appearance. What does surprise however is the way the gloriously heavy, dubby bass takes it closer to reggae than it’s ever been before. And the driving ‘Red Moon’ gets a powerful, extended, rocking workout to close the night on an impressive high.
Now I understand.
Photographer – Victoria Ling
I wrote a book about music once. It's called "The Great Cassette Experiment" and you can buy it for your Kindle. I'm busy writing another one. And the one after that one will almost certainly be a biography of the German genius behind Boney M and Milli Vanilli, Frank Farian.
I was 50 years old when I wrote this, however by the time you read it I will be at least 51.