Last Shadow Puppets at Sheffield City Hall
Anticipation grows as the 16-piece orchestra emerge and quietly organise themselves before anxious fangirls sitting alongside middle aged and young couples. A strange scenario perhaps for the comfortably seated audience but cast a thought for Alex Turner, Miles Kane and James Ford. Besuited tonight, but aside from The Last Shadow Puppets lead three of the more thrilling acts in today’s music scene; namely Arctic Monkeys, The Rascals and Simian Mobile Disco. Though several isolated screams mark the band’s modest arrival this is more theatre than The Astoria.
The set begins with a thunderous rendition of 'In My Room' and typifies the curious combination of Kane’s screeching guitar and a meddling string section that will become a major feature. Frequented by theatrical pauses that seem suited to the orchestra rather than the band, it is an auspicious start. That they then launch into 'The Age Of The Understatement' could be seen as an indication of the band’s confidence. Switching vocal duties effortlessly, not only does the song itself soar but raises expectations by opening with two of the most riveting songs in their repertoire.
By now the band are settling into their opulent surroundings as 'Calm Like You' swaggers with intent, yet between songs the frontmen themselves seem reticent. For tonight, the spotlight is invariably on returning local boy Turner and he seems particularly agitated. Electing to concentrate on his delivery, it seems the occasion is getting the better of him and he would prefer putting in a solid performance rather than a spectacular one. A few audacious Arctic Monkeys song requests become audible to which Turner tempestuously replies with several choice words of his own. If anything, the exchange brings Turner out of his shell and subsequently the performance goes up a notch. Finally roused, 'Only The Truth' comes loaded with all the bravado of a James Bond theme tune with its blend of galloping drums, spiralling rhythms and lyrics that allude to more than they should.
With only a debut album and a few b-sides to their name, a selection of covers supplement the set. Without much departure to their 60’s retro tendencies the band take on The Beatles’ 'I Want You (She’s So Heavy)' and just about pull it off. Lead singer of support band Ipso Facto, Rosie Cunningham, becomes Nancy Sinatra and joins Kane as Lee Hazlewood for a sumptuous duet of 'Paris Summer'. Then Turner takes over as the crooner, covering David Bowie’s 'In The Heat Of The Morning' and imposing his majestic vocal range. Much like the album itself, the focus remains on intricate melodies and overlapping voices leaving a talented orchestra largely redundant which, when called upon, adds suspense and intrigue to colour the bands efforts. Even so, the horn section is then enhanced with the introduction of another talent in the Turner household as Alex’s father joins on trumpet.
The encore merits a standing ovation and Kane then encourages those already up to remain so for the highlight of the night as he becomes the showman for a doo-wop version of 'Memories' by Leonard Cohen. As Kane playfully swings across the stage, the track becomes suited to a prom night with the desired effect of a blonde girl beckoning him over for a kiss at the front. All that remains for a finale is a bracing acoustic rendition of 'Standing Next To Me'.
After tonight, the thought of The Last Shadow Puppets as a mere side-project seems absurd, but then this is the age of the understatement.