Turin Brakes celebrate the 20th anniversary of album Ether Song in Glasgow
Turin Brakes have always been an unstarry proposition, even as the harmonies of founder members Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian reach for the heavens. Emerging from the New Acoustic Movement of the early 2000s, and peaking commercially with their 2003 UK top 5 hit Painkiller (Summer Rain), they’re a modest band, committed to the music and the songcraft. It’s no coincidence one of their lyrics goes, “Have another drink my son/Enjoy another cigarette/’Cos it’s time you realised/You’re just an average man.”
So who could have predicted they’d be touring for the 20th anniversary of their second album, 2003’s Ether Song, played in order tonight? Certainly not Knights (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Gale Paridjanian (backing vocals, lead guitar), joined as usual by Eddie Myer (bass) and Rob Allum (vocals, drums). Dressed down in checked shirt (Knights) and a cap (Paridjanian) they ask the audience at Glasgow’s Òran Mór if they know what song comes next. “Till a week ago, neither did we!” says Paridjanian.
The swelling six/eight of Blue Hour kicks things off. Intricate and aching, it’s a great showcase for Knights’ voice – a lovely keening thing with a raw, road-tired edge to it. A conciliatory Average Man comes next, which highlights Paridjanian’s soaring slide guitar, and reminds you just how beautifully their vocals entwine. It’s heartening to see the crowd not just joining in, but attempting to harmonise too.
For Long Distance, Knights gets out a silver electric guitar he calls “Old Spangly”, perhaps the most showbiz moment of the evening, but the song builds to a feedback squall, with Myer and Allum not just locking down the rhythm section, but geeing the crowd up too.
“Let’s party like it’s 2003!” shouts the former before an exuberant Painkiller (Summer Rain), one of the moments that the quality of the song, the intensity of the performance and the commitment of the crowd creates a kind of alchemy.
The album playback ends with dying-fall efforts such as Rain City, before the band return with newer, more upbeat material such as Fishing for a Dream for an extended encore. It’s so extended, in fact, that they seem to be making it up as they go along, huddling together to decide on a final song. Underdog (Save Me), from their mercury-nominated debut, is a great choice, and the second time all the elements of the evening gel together to create something else entirely. On this form you wouldn’t bet against seeing them in another 20 years.