Turin Brakes Return to Delight Mercury Lounge

March 11th, 2014

Turin Brakes – Mercury Lounge – March 10, 2014

Near the start of their set at the Mercury Lounge Monday night, Turin Brakes lead singer Olly Knights explained. “I’m a simple man … I’m explaining things simply.” It was a joke, one of many classically British understated bits of humor sprinkled throughout the show, but it also perfectly described the evening’s music. Together with guitarist Gale Paridjanian, and their more-than-capable rhythm section, the London duo crammed 15 years worth of simply stated indie rock into their set.

They opened with “Time and Money,” the lead track off their newest album, We Were Here, showing off earthy harmonies and high energy on a gothic Southern rocker. Knights assured the enthusiastic crowd, which had come out on a Monday to see a band that hadn’t played in the U.S. for 4 years, that there would be plenty of old songs and new ones, and the band delivered on that promise, grabbing from their entire history and showing off a range of styles from straight rock, stripped-down folk and everything in between. Many of the highlights found Paridjanian showing off his slide-guitar skills, like on the very elegant cool-down segue into “Blindsided Again,” which did some Pink Floyd-esque boundary breaking while Knights sang about time “ticking like an atom bomb.” Even better were the moments of both on acoustic guitar, Paridjanian with beautiful slide playing to complement the vocals on songs like “Stone Thrown” and “Future Boy.” “Emergency 72” anchored a highlight-filled second half of the set, with a Crazy Horse vibe that ended in a mallet-on-drum-fueled climax. The show closed with “I Let Somebody Under My Skin,” which began slow and folkie, building to a big rock out before twisting into a trippier section and then into a bass-and-drum big finish that was not-so-simple-after-all impressive.

The early set at the Merc sometimes feels constrained, bands racing the clock and tripping over themselves in the process. Not the case last night, Turin Brakes completely at ease, crammed just enough music into their allotted time. It’s always interesting to see how bands tread around an encore at Mercury Lounge, seeing as there’s no backstage to retreat to. Turin Brakes played it coy, naturally, allowing that they’d return for a couple more songs if asked. The crowd played along, but their ovation was honest and heartfelt—they’d waited four years, after all. In turn, the audience was rewarded with a beautiful “No Mercy,” the band clicking over Paridjanian’s otherworldly slide once again, Knights’ voice as strong as it had been all night, simply great. —A. Stein