Changes have been afoot in the Tindersticks camp ahead of tonight’s show, the band’s first in London since their appearance in the Don’t Look Back series of retrospective gigs a couple of years ago. The original line-up is in somewhat reduced circumstances, now comprising a core of singer Stuart Staples, keyboard player Dave Boulter and guitarist Neil Fraser, whilst their first album as a three-piece, the Hungry Saw, provided the bedrock for this performance in the reverential hush of the Royal Festival Hall.
The new album sounds fresher than their last couple of outings, though there are no radical departures, musically or lyrically. There are still the sweeping strings, as well as the more soulful inflections that have characterised their sound since the late ‘90s, whilst the interjection of jarring, off-tempo guitar during Mother Dear is a nod to their murkier, edgier (untitled) debut album. As always, there are the dolorous tones of Stuart Staples, whose delivery has in the past been unfavourably compared in some quarters to Vic Reeves’ pub singer!
As a long term fan of Nottingham’s finest, and having seen them a couple of times before, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from the new look band. We began with a solo Dave Boulter playing the simple piano motif of the album’s opening track, the rather sensibly titled Introduction, a piece very reminiscent of a score from a French indie film (in which Tindersticks have form, having twice collaborated in the past with French director Claire Denis). Gradually he was joined onstage by the various additional musicians (including a full string section and a horn section led by the redoubtable Terry Edwards) and the rest of the band.
The Hungry Saw was played in its’ entirety, and though not exactly a Year Zero style statement of intent, it did make sense to focus on the restructured Tindersticks’ present and future, rather than dwell on the past. There was a brief intermission of older songs, including the aching Travelling Light from the masterful second (again, untitled) album and the gorgeously laidback cover of Odyssey’s If You’re Looking for A Way Out from 1999’s Simple Pleasures, by which time the audience were feeling brave enough to cheer on their heroes rather than offer polite applause between numbers (though between-song banter with the crowd was never the band’s forte).
Tindersticks lit up two encores with the blackly humorous My Sister (always a favourite with this reviewer) and the playful She’s Gone, but on the strength of their new material, I’d say the future for the new band looks bright.
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