posted on November 25, 2008 13:05
Tindersticks (live in Vicar Street, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: At a time of year when the ‘Best album’ gongs and baubles are being handed out, tonight’s impeccable performance serves as a reminder that ‘The Hungry Saw’ is as good as any record released this calendar year. It also served notice of Tindersticks’ return to form as a compelling live act.
The Cluas Verdict? 9.5 out of 10
It has been a remarkable year for Tindersticks. Rumours of the band’s demise had seemingly been concretized once Stuart Staples embarked upon his own solo career – in the process releasing the quite wonderful ‘Leaving Songs’ – whilst in-band politics rendered it impossible for them to remain as they once were. Exit Dickon Hinchcliffe - to concentrate on film scores - and enter a new era for the band.
The evening begins, appropriately enough, with ‘Introduction’ – the first sound onstage is of David Boulter coaxing some fragile notes from his piano as one by one, the band members file on stage just in time to take up their bass, organ, string and xylophone duties. At the song’s conclusion, the remaining band members take the stage – Staples among them – to a ‘Where the hell have you been?’ cheer.
The band launch straight into ‘Yesterday’s Tomorrows’ and Staples’ vocals are immaculate from the off. There’s no letting up throughout the show – majestic performances of ‘Flicker of a Little Girl’ (you imagine the room collectively wince as Staples sings “It’s so easy to be beautiful when you’re young”), ‘The Other Side of the World’ and ‘Feel the Sun’ swiftly follow.
Perhaps more than most bands, Tindersticks have suffered in that they’ve been stereotyped to death – debonair Nottingham miserabilists soundtracking Staples’ paeans to love and lust – but there’s always been a humorous side to Tindersticks which many choose either not to acknowledge or fail to see. There’s evidence of self-effacing humour on show between band members tonight and, despite the fact that Staples limits communication with the crowd, there’s no hiding his pleasure at the sound his band are creating. During the show he admits that the band have wanted to play Vicar Street for some time now and the fact that the subtlest of nuances within each song is caught perfectly by Vicar Street’s oft lauded acoustics makes for the most bewitching of evenings.
‘The Hungry Saw’ provides the meat and bones of tonight’s performance but, tellingly, it’s the older tunes with which the audience immediately identify. There are quite stunning renditions of ‘Travelling Light’, ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Buried Bones’ and ‘Sleepy Song’, with the latter in particular compellingly showcasing the cinematic scope of their music. Each song tonight is embellished by the presence of a string quintet who add an understated flourish particularly during tonight’s set closer ‘The Turns We Took’. In itself, the song is magnificent, but it works equally as a succinct allegory for what the band have been through in the latter years of their career.
An immaculate encore ensues – the band scarcely put a foot wrong all night save for Staples comically forgetting the words of ‘Boobar Come back to Me’ – with the band concentrating once again on their rich back catalogue; ‘If You’re Looking for a Way Out’, a raucous version of ‘Her’ and a wonderfully benign ‘The Not Knowing’ end an improbably perfect show.
At the business end of 2008 then, quite simply, the gig of the year.