The Last Shadow Puppets, a side project of charismatic heartthrob Alex Turner (frontman of the Arctic Monkeys) and singer/guitarist Miles Kane (formerly of the Rascals), may not be well-known to those outside the mainstream Arctic Monkeys circles, and that's perfectly fine by TLSP devotees. While my darling daughter has been a longtime fan, I have been a lazy learner of TLSP, engaging only with the "hits" (if you can call them that; there's not much room on the charts for swooning ballads that sound more like intro songs to spaghetti westerns than Katy Perry chart-toppers) when their second album was announced.
"If we listen to our deluxe vinyl albums with our doors shut tight, the rest of the world will leave our darling duo alone and we'll have free reign of the intimate, dilapidated old theaters they're touring this year," obsessed Shadow Puppeteers might say. That plan might work, except for the pressing matter of TLSP's sumptuous live show.
The Shadow Puppets are NOT the Arctic Monkeys. Read that line again, and accept it. They are a different animal entirely, more akin to the charming, barely sober, brooding cousin of Arctic Monkeys, the one who prowls into dark alleys at night and sleeps with your best friend's girl occasionally.
To merely listen to TLSP's songs doesn't do them justice. In their live show, TLSP are a hypnotic, spastic rendering of that polished studio sound, two friends who seem hell-bent on making you fall in love with them before they even buy you a drink. Or subtly convince you to buy the next round. I mean, who's keeping score?
Miles Kane is a showman, exploding and preening about the stage, all knobby knees and swagger while Alex Turner alternately croons to the girls in the front row and rips into his guitar. At some points, they playfully "fight" over the microphone, like teenaged boys pretending to be rock stars. But the fact that they *are* rock stars makes the difference. When Alex Turner turns around, grabs a comb from his back pocket, and smoothes his finely greased hair into its signature greaser coif, the entire audience - and band (made up of the duo, plus 4 string musicians, a bassist, keyboardist, badass drummer, and another guitarist or two) - waits with bated breath. The result? Full-tilt swagger.
Damn those Shadow Puppets! I thought I'd be immune to their classic, 1960s Mod charms. I'll see them later this week at Coachella and then again at Outside Lands - I didn't really need to see them right now - but there was just something about the peeling damask wallpaper and thrilling-scary neo-gothic architecture of the Ace Theater in Downtown LA that set the stage for falling in love with the bad boys my mama warned me about. That, and the beautiful, vampire-dotted crowd, and it's a recipe for smoke and mirrors of the best kind.
They played their popular songs - Bad Habits, Aviation, Dracula Teeth, My Mistakes Were Made for You, and the classic ballad Miracle Aligner - as well as the lush new "Sweet Dreams, TN," for which Alex went into the front row and nearly caused a few Urban Outfitted girls to scuffle for his affection. The encore included a smoky cover of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," followed by "The Dream Synopsis" and the lovely closer "Standing Next to Me."
No sir, TLSP aren't the Arctic Monkeys. They are darker, sexier, wildly unpredictable. And now I'm a believer.