Photo Credit: Kevin McGough
We arrived at Exeter Phoenix on a cold Thursday eve, and found an unusual clientele present for this sell-out gig. The venue was packed to the rafters with middle aged folk fans; what was clear from the off was that these devotees had followed the band right from their beginnings in the early 2000s. At one stage when lead singer Olly Knights asked if they remembered the Optimist LP (the band’s debut album) the crowd gave him a rapturous response, before the band launched into a memorable rendition of Emergency 72.
The group kicked off with a trio of new album tracks which showcased the band’s versatility as the electric guitar led 96 was followed by the jaunty indie folk of Keep Me Around, and finally the slower uplifting title track Lost Property. What was immediately clear was that this was no average folk band. Gale Paridjanian is a virtuoso guitarist on both acoustic and electric and would often improvise some tasty solos which at times transformed songs from their recorded format. The band’s three and sometimes four part vocal harmonies were spot on throughout the gig, as were the solo vocals of Knights, who has an impressive range. It was also great to watch a band who despite being an outfit for the best part of 20 years still seem to relish playing together. The banter between the members and with the crowd was natural and refreshing, and made the evening seem very personal.
The pace of the gig was also well tempered with more upbeat songs contrasted with the slower more thoughtful numbers, such as the angsty, almost grunge-like Long Distance placed before the slow burning epic Black Rabbit which culminated in yet another sublime solo from Paridjanian making notable use of echoing and reverb. While early album classics such as Painkiller and Fishing for A Dream had a big reception, in truth the crowd were holding onto every last note of the performance, and the band came back for not one but two encores. The highlights from the back end of the performance included Underdog’s extended acoustic jamming and Slack, which included a Reggae breakdown and at one stage the band trolling the audience with the riff from Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers. All in all Turin Brakes were a rare combination of accomplished, entertaining and personal, and the audience departed thoroughly satisfied after a memorable evening.