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    Puppets Put On Power-Packed Performance

    The Last Shadow Puppets, a highly underrated musical mish-mash marvel, graced the stage on the seventh floor of the Manhattan Center on 34th Street this past Thursday to a sold out audience in the Grand Ballroom.

    Though The Last Shadow Puppets contains a 12-piece orchestra, the two leading men are the musical masterminds credited with its creation. Alex Turner and Miles Kane, both 22, are two of England’s youngest and most talented musicians today. Turner heads overnight sensation Arctic Monkeys, while Kane is the frontman for The Rascals. Last August the duo hid away in the French countryside for two weeks, where they recorded the tracks for their debut album “The Age Of The Understatement” (Domino Records).

    Orchestral sounds and ambient acoustic guitar complement Turner’s lyrical genius throughout the 35-minute LP, creating tunes of epic proportion as well as soft, mellow ballads. Rolling Stone compares the music to “the moody symphonic sound of early David Bowie,” and the ’60s-inspired melodies of Scott Walker – a heavy influence for both Turner and Kane – are undeniable.

    With a capacity of 1,200, the Grand Ballroom was a perfectly intimate venue for The Last Shadow Puppets to host their only New York tour date. The crowd was surprisingly varied; there were Alex-adoring teenagers, midlife crisis moms, 20-somethings, even an elderly couple. Unlike the post-punk sounds of Arctic Monkeys that connects primarily with angst-ridden youth, The Last Shadow Puppets has a unique sound the clearly appeals to everyone, given the diversity in the audience.

    Stephen Fretwell was the hopeless opening act, performing acoustic songs to a raucous crowd. His songs did not have titles; rather, he gave a brief and vague synopsis of the tunes. “This song is about?” he said before he began to strum. Fretwell is the bassist for the backup band, so it seemed that they threw him on stage with little preparation.

    Finally, after waiting what seemed like an infinite amount of time, the string section began playing the frantic sounds of “In My Room” as Turner and Kane came out on stage, waving and greeting the crowd with their English inflections – “We’re The Last Shadow Puppets!” Kane yelled – before giving a performance Spin magazine called “explosive and haunting.” Next came the epic “The Age Of The Understatement,” which resulted in the audience singing louder than the frontmen.

    Media credit: Nicholas Roberts for The New York Times

    There was a brief slip-up during the brazen “Separate And Ever Deadly.” After a moment of silence between chorus and verse, Kane stumbled over his words as the band and orchestra struggled to synchronize. Kane brought the song to a halt, apologized for his mistake – “I f-ked it up, man” – and wrapped up the song with an impressive finish, fully equipped with Turner rocking out in seizure-like movements, his fluffy mop of hair flailing everywhere.

    The set list included covers as well. The Last Shadow Puppets performed David Bowie’s “In The Heat Of The Morning” and Burt Bacharach’s “Little Red Book,” which can be found on the EP version of “The Age Of The Understatement” and as a b-side for the “My Mistakes Were Made For You” single, respectively.

    But the third cover from the night was undoubtedly the most spectacular, and sadly not available on any recording. Their rendition of The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was nothing short of incredible, with funky beats, trippy keyboards and jagged instrumental breaks.

    After an hour of orchestral pop perfection, Turner and Kane finished the concert with the serene “Meeting Place.” Much crowd encouragement brought the duo back out for an encore, which consisted of Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” and their second single “Standing Next To Me,” which closed up the show. The stage lights turned on and the mob of concertgoers shuffled into cramped elevators, dazed in a state of auditory euphoria.

    Listen to The Last Shadow Puppets on their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thelastshadowpuppets. Their records are available at www.thelastshadowpuppets.com or on the iTunes Music Store.

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