[intro-text size=”25px”]A spotlight beams onto the second floor balcony of the Agora Theatre and there stands Alex Turner in a suit coat, his back to the crowd.[/intro-text]
“Tiger eyelashes, summer wine,” he begins to sing and the crowd erupts to the title track of The Last Shadow Puppets’ first new album in eight years, Everything That You’ve Come To Expect. Alex turns around and removes his coat to reveal a LeBron James jersey, prompting a second eruption. The other prominent half of TLSP, Miles Kane, appears on the stage below to join Alex on vocals as the two serenade each other like a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Alex joins the rest of the band onstage as they moved into the jangly “Used To Be My Girl,” spurring the crowd into as much bouncing as is possible in this exceptionally hot and humid summer night. The crowd picks up even more as the band rails into “The Age of The Understatement,” the title track of their first album and a blistering anthem of seduction daring to get emotional with the sexual tension felt most prevalently in the driving gallop of TLSP’s rhythm section, bassist Zach Dawes and drummer James Ford.
“The Dream Synopsis” is the most imagery-inducing track on the new album. “And the snow was falling thick and fast,” sings Alex Turner the storyteller. “We were bombing down Los Feliz / It was you and me and Miles Kane / And some kid I went to school with…” The lyrics read exactly as most dreams occur: random shots from our lives welded together in ways that make little sense, but still manage to tell a story because they’re ours. The thought of a wicked gale howling up through Sheffield City Centre provides a slight mental cooldown to the wicked summer stuffiness inside the Agora the same way envisioning a beach gives us relief when we’re knee-deep in Cleveland’s winter snow.
One wonders if a wicked gale across the Agora stage might help both band and audience regain a bit of steam. It feels like the band and audience are starting to lose each other’s momentum, and I blame the heat – it’s making simply existing a difficult task. Alex’s vocals sound a bit muted on both “My Mistakes Were Made For You” and “Aviation”; his vocals on the latter are nearly drowned out behind the giant wall of sound in the song.
“Miracle Aligner” has most of the crowd swaying and singing along and has done a lot to boost the energy back up in the room, though the somewhat abrupt live ending to the song felt like it cut us all off. We all jumped back in at the start of the new album’s lead single, “Bad Habits,” a bassline-friendly track the boys all seem to really feel as they’re playing it, with all the animated showmanship one expects from rock stars. Punk rock’s influence on Miles is most prominent as he takes over the vocal reins to cover The Fall’s “Totally Wired” in a stripped-down but ballsy performance that would make even the publicly-irascible Mark E. Smith openly smile. Note that only us older folks seem to be singing along.
The band finishes with the bluesy, sexual swing of “In My Room” and a crooning, gyrating Alex Turner says, “It’s so hard to leave Cleveland.” Well then, stick around for a while, mate.
The Last Shadow Puppets return for an encore set starting with “Sweet Dreams, TN”, and if you know anything about Tennessee (or Elvis), you feel it all over this track. They roll into “Standing Next To Me,” with someone in the crowd taking the last-minute opportunity to blaze a spliff in the pit area, much to the delight of those whose buzz from before the show had worn off and were breathing in for a little contact. A delightful rendition of “Meeting Place” brought the Agora show to its (almost) final end.
TLSP are sometimes accused of being a self-indulgent side project for two of the UK’s brightest musical stars, but the music is neither an extension of Kane’s solo work nor an Arctic Monkeys rip-off. Kane and Turner are enjoying being rock stars together; they’ve certainly parodied themselves, but how much of a real parody or an act of self-indulgence is it really when the music stands so well on its own merit?
Miles Kane should be using this tour to help establish a US fan base for his solo material; I can easily see Cleveland music fans welcoming him to the Grog Shop or Beachland someday. I admit I wasn’t always that keen on Kane — I saw him open for the Arctic Monkeys at their Finsbury Park gig when I lived in London and thought, “Not mind-blowing, but pretty good.” He now seems to have completely refined his character as both a guitar player and a rock-star persona, and he’s fucking fantastic; he went from being a good musician at the Finsbury Park show to a great one at the Cleveland Agora. For further proof, look up The Last Shadow Puppets’ cover of Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” at this year’s Glastonbury and listen to how Kane renders Mick Ronson’s solo and makes it his absolute own. He also gets more handsome with age; his only remaining fault seems to be that he didn’t proposition the right journalist.
A crowd of about 60 people is gathered outside by the band’s buses. I shouldn’t have to tell you it’s made up of mostly teenage girls.
Alex and Miles soon appear both wearing LeBron James jerseys, Alex carrying an acoustic guitar. Girls lunge, the small crowd cheers and their mobiles all come up in the darkness as the guys make their way from the other side of the gate up and down the row of fans leading a post-show sing-along to snippets of “Standing Next To Me” and “Meeting Place.” Alex made eye contact with a young girl who will probably never forget it as long as she lives, and of course, Alex and Miles made eye contact with each other, each his counterpart’s most adoring fan.
One more final salute to the crowd, and then….”all he had to say was ‘goodbye’”.