Alex Turner and Miles Kane, together known as The Last Shadow Puppets, are an unstoppable, charismatic duo. After releasing their debut album The Age of the Understatement (Domino Records) back in 2008, each turned their focus back to their own careers, Turner with the Arctic Monkeys and Kane with The Rascals (which would break up soon, leaving Kane to pursue a solo career). But The Last Shadow Puppets, known to their fans as TLSP, returned to the music scene in April of this year with their second album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect (April 2016 via Domino Records). Full of driving guitars, elegant violins, and plenty of Turner/Kane harmonies, TLSP’s sophomore album is everything fans expected and more. After an eight-year hiatus, fans eagerly welcomed The Last Shadow Puppets back with open arms. In return, they were treated with a massive tour, including multiple festival appearances this summer.
The collision of Turner and Kane is truly brilliant. Turner is suave; his voice is silky and smooth, much like his gel laced hair. Kane is intense; his voice is rough and strong. Together, they make refreshingly unique rock music. Each brings something different to the table, allowing them to incorporate a variety of elements into their overall sound.
Both albums are masterful; while entirely capable of standing alone, they are better when listened to in succession. However, nothing compares to seeing TLSP live: Their music becomes brightened and intensified by performance. It feels more realized and alive, like finally seeing a play on Broadway after only ever reading the script.
An elegant red curtain draped behind the stage; all the instruments lay still as the buzz of excitement and anticipation ran through the waiting crowd. Kane and Turner waltzed onto the stage, completely filling the venue with their presence before uttering a single word.
They went straight into “Dracula Teeth,” breaking through the crowd’s screams with a dreamy guitar and violin intro. From that moment on, Turner and Kane owned the stage; they demanded everyone’s attention without ever having to ask for it. All eyes were locked on them for the duration of the set. The rest of the supporting band faded away into the backdrop; there simply wasn’t enough room for them alongside the larger than life personalities of Turner and Kane.
Successfully having two frontmen is a feat not easily accomplished. Under normal circumstances, one presence is bound to overshadow the other. Fans are going to be inclined toward one and labeling the other as secondary. But TLSP are perfectly balanced, sharing the spotlight brilliantly. During “The Element of Surprise,” Turner and Kane stand side by side, singing and playing in unison. And while Turner has a larger following in terms of his career, the Arctic Monkeys took the world by storm with their 2013 release “AM”, Kane commands the stage with power and grace all the same. Their shared stage is a level playing field, neither having to compete for the attention of the audience. They each have their own turn to shine in the spotlight, taking the lead on different songs. Kane had his moment on a totally weird cover of “Totally Wired” by The Fall. Intense, driving, and a little off, this song perfectly highlights the quirkiness of Kane. Immediately after, Turner took over for “The Bourne Identity” and then crowd favorite “Sweet Dreams, TN” where his incredible range and silky vocals are on full display. Both are incredible vocalists and musicians, watching them show off their unique talents and personalities is an unforgettable experience.
The setlist was strong throughout, always keeping the audience on their toes. Highlights included “Bad Habits”, the loud, rocking song that served as the first single off their second album, “The Dream Synopsis”, a beautiful ballad belted out by Turner, and “My Mistakes Were Made for You”, a fan favorite from their first album. There was no apparent pattern for the setlist but the chaos of it all was surprisingly controlled. Turner and Kane transitioned seamlessly between songs, allowing the audience just enough time to catch their breath before jumping right into the next. The setup and light show were simple yet elegant. Different hues of red, orange, and blue filled the stage, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. Always the focus was on Turner and Kane and ultimately, the music.
TLSP is not a band active on social media or overly concerned with fan outreach and may come across as aloof and too cool at times. But during their live shows the intimacy between them, paired with the small venues they play, creates a space in which the audience is pulled into their world. They gravitate toward each other throughout the show, often playing back to back or even face to face. This sense of closeness and connection somehow includes the audience, making fans feel as if they are in on a secret or part of an exclusive club.
If you’re even a mild fan of The Last Shadow Puppets, you must see them in concert. Their elegant yet powerful, intimate yet polished performance will leave you breathless. While many bands have live acts that are disappointing, TLSP is a band made to be heard, seen, and experienced in person.
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cover: The Last Shadow Puppets © Zackery Michael