White drapes hang from the glass dome of Alexandra Palace, studio lights line the back of the stage, and through gusts of pink confetti a huge disco ball is lowered from the ceiling. It looks more like something Fellini dreamt of in the 1970s than a rock concert, but with their soaring orchestral scores, surrealistic lyricism and increasingly outlandish sartorial choices, it is that almost cinematic theatricality that has long been the appeal of The Last Shadow Puppets.
The profligate melodramatics on stage remind us perhaps that this band is only an elaborate side project for its two front men. Nonetheless, it is a side project with two number one albums and some of Miles Kane and Alex Turner’s best work, and as Johnny Marr joins them on stage for instrumental support it appears to be a bold testament to the scale of the pair's experimental fling.
Kane sneers and struts his way through “Bad Habits” and “The Age of the Understatement”, as his band mate croons and swings in pelvic pirouettes to indie power ballads including “The Dream Synopsis” and “Sweet Dreams, TN”, much to the audience’s delight. It is endlessly watchable and cool, and the fans seem to have completely forgot the band’s more modest, dulcet roots. “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”, Turner proposes to the 10,000 people in the audience. And in his take on Dylan’s surrealistic dreamscapes he sings of “palm tree debris and a Roman Colosseum” in Sheffield City Centre.
Overall the sound mixing is underwhelming compared to the visual spectacle, the brilliant string arrangements that have become quintessential to their songs often becoming almost drowned out beneath the other instruments. Nonetheless, the reaction to the recent singles is uproarious, though unfortunately the crowd is more reserved for some of the bands perhaps stronger earlier work, as well as particularly strong covers of The Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”, The Fall’s “Totally Wired” featuring Johnny Marr and Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”.
“I’m ready for my close up”, Alex Turner smoulders grandiloquently into the microphone. The performance is indulgent, narcissistic, but unlike Norma Desmond The Last Shadow Puppets appear at the height of their fame, and as individuals show no signs of losing their current status as contemporary rock stars, a fact they both seem infinitely aware of.
Last Shadow Puppets played:
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (The Smiths cover) (with Johnny Marr)
Standing Next To Me
Separate And Ever Deadly
Used to Be My Girl
My Mistakes Were Made For You
The Element of Surprise (with Johnny Marr)
Totally Wired (The Fall cover) (with Johnny Marr)
The Age Of The Understatement
The Dream Synopsis
In My Room
Everything You've Come to Expect
Sweet Dreams, TN
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover)