Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Long-standing, distinguished and with well-hewn features. Although it applies to the gothic magnificence of Manchester Cathedral, I’m actually thinking of the appearance of Tindersticks. Seven men, clearly not in their twenties (or thirties) anymore but wearing their age well: greying at the temples, but looking elegant and dapper in their suits (except guitarist Neil in open collared shirt who clearly missed the dress code briefing). The band are wearing dark colours in the main: browns, greys, blacks. And so are most of the audience. Tonight was one of those occasions when the audience, predominantly male, predominantly of a certain age, closely resemble the band on stage. Without the hand-made suits.

However if the dark colours and gothic setting make this sound unremittingly gloomy you’d be wrong. There were splashes of colour from the lighting and deft changes of pace and mood from a set stretching across the band’s near twenty-year career.

The ornate altar in front of which the band perform is lit in a variety of bright colours – rich blues, bright golds – and occasionally the tall columns and gothic roof above are festooned with swirling patterns of light. It is unspeakably beautiful.

The seven members cover a variety of instruments seemingly with ease – drums, keys, bass, lead guitar, guitar/xylophone/triangle, sax/clarinet/cello with Stuart Staples on lead vocal/guitar/tambourine. This gives a rich depth to the songs, whether gentle instrumentals, moody ballads or noirish swing numbers, and the setting is perfect: both monumental and intimate, allowing the mood to switch from delicate and ominous.

Staples may have mumbled his ‘thank yous’ between songs but his vocals were the clearest I have heard – it felt like they were personally addressed it was so intimate and direct. Singing with eyes closed, swaying slightly, you’d be forgiven for seeing an almost religious quality to his delivery. It’s a captivating central performance.

So a ninety minute set that took in ‘Marbles’ and ‘Tyed’ from the first record through to many songs from new album “Falling Down A Mountain”, finished energetically with ‘Harmony Around My Table’. The band then made the appreciative audience work hard for three encores (‘No Man In The World’, ‘Can We Start Again’ and ‘My Oblivion’).

It’s wasn’t just the setting. It’s wasn’t just the music that made tonight. But the fusion of the two created a very special event. One to treasure.

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