LIVE REVIEW: Turin Brakes at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast

LIVE REVIEW: Turin Brakes at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast 1
© Bernie McAllister

Part of the Out to Lunch winter music festival, Turin Brakes played a superb, stripped-down acoustic gig at the Empire to kick-start Belfast’s weekend. No big surprises in terms of the set-list, but a solid look back at their 20-year career. These guys always deliver a quality show with Olly Knights on lead vocals & rhythm guitar, Gale Paridjanian on lead guitar, Rob Allum on drums and the larger than life Eddie Myer on bass.

Following their opener ‘Sea Change’ from the 2010 release ‘Outbursts’, Olly introduced ‘The Door’ (one of six tracks from their Mercury Music Prize nominated album, ‘The Optimist’), with the realisation that it has incredibly been 18 years since they last played The Empire; a gig I was fortunate enough to also experience.

Bass-player Eddie Mayer, who is never short of a few quips for the crowd, set the scene for ‘Lost in the Woods’ by warning of the dangers of wandering up Belfast’s Black Mountain in the dark – “there’s wolves and shit up there, right?” There was a tangible, positive energy between the band and the crowd, prompting one member of the audience to wish Gale a Happy Birthday. Gale playfully replying “Thank you, but it’s not today. It is sometime this year though.”

The title track from the 2007 ‘Dark on Fire’ was followed by another comical interlude from Eddie. He confessed there was a mix-up with their luggage, on an airline that will remain nameless and sadly there would be no merch for sale at the gig tonight – “We have nothing to sell but our music, bodies & souls”, before Olly quickly interjected, “Well, actually just our music and souls. Just to be clear, our bodies are not for sale.”

Turin Brakes
© Bernie McAllister

With a slight yearning in his voice, Gales takes us back to the Summer of 2003, “Before the days of Facebook..” and the explosion of technology, into the opening notes of the brilliant ‘Painkiller’ from the album ‘Ether Song’. The band then hurtled towards the end of the set with ‘Fishing for a Dream’ and ‘Long Distance.’

The encore was kicked off by the lively ‘Keep Me Around’, the lone track on the set from 2016 ‘Lost Property’ release. Paridjanian’s signature opening chords on one of their most sublime songs, ‘Underdog’ delighted the crowd. There was even time for a second encore, much to the adoration of the Belfast audience with two final numbers from ‘The Optimist’ – the reflective ‘Feeling Oblivion’ and the bluesy ‘Slack’. The gratitude of the band towards the crowd was evident in their reactions as they exited the stage. During the gig, the band commented that Belfast has always given them some of their most memorable nights. Put this performance down on record as another one of those evenings for Turin Brakes.

Full set-list:
1 Sea Change
2 The Door
3 Lost in the Woods
4 We Were Here
5 Dark on Fire
6 Mind over Money
7 Apocolips
8 Emergency 72
9 Come and Go
10 No Mercy
11 Painkiller
12 Fishing for a Dream
13 Long Distance
Encore
14 Keep me Around
15 Outbursts
16 Underdog
Encore 2
17 Feeling

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