A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Tindersticks, Shepherds Bush Empire, 24/03/10

I was at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Wednesday night to see Tindersticks. It was the 4th time I had seen them after previous visits to the Royal Albert Hall in 2000, the Barbican in 2005 (when they performed “Tindersticks II” as part of the Don’t Look Back series) and Union Chapel in 2008. I arrived early to claim a front row seat in Level 1 (possibly one of the best places to watch a concert from in London??).

Over previous weeks I had been enjoying the recurring lyrical themes which crop up throughout the Tindersticks songs – holes in shoes, 'pretending', sex, male guilt, separation, unrequited love, crying, relationship failure, melancholy etc. Quite a few of these made their way into tonight’s set (I enjoyed how “A Night In” and “Harmony Around My Table” sat next to each other, the both lyrics dealing with holes-in-shoes). Sometimes I think I could write a full blog post just on the lyrics of the Tindersticks. Maybe I will some day...

They opened with the jazzy textures of “Falling Down A Mountain”, closely followed by the delicate, quiet soul of “Keep You Beautiful”. We also got the brooding drama of “Bathtime” & “Dying Slowly” and the lugubrious beauty of “The Other Side Of The World”. An atmospheric, rumbling version of “Marbles” was also performed.

The centre of their set featured two highlights from the new album. We got the exquisite subtlety of “Peanuts”, Stuart Staples’ rich, wavering voice delivering lines such as “I know you love peanuts” with the soulful depth that some other singers could spend a lifetime striving towards. Next was “Factory Girls”, with its sparse, hushed arrangements.

The understated, cinematic noir of instrumental “Hubbard’s Hill” also found a place in the set as did the sophisticated almost-soul-pop of “Black Smoke”. “Harmony Around My Table” closed the set in upbeat style.

I may be getting this slightly wrong but I think the first encore consisted of “No Man In The World” and the hit-that-never-was “Can We Start Again?” 

They came back on for a second encore, playing the sublime “City Sickness” followed by “Raindrops”.

The inclusion of the cello did a pretty good job of replicating the orchestral sound of their albums, especially on set-highlights such as “A Night In”. The band were on confident form throughout and Stuart appeared to be enjoying the gig (despite some grumbles over Shepherd’s Bush).

So, overall a brilliantly judged set from a great band. I went there expecting them to play material largely from their last two albums, but the set included a generous selection from their back catalogue.

Set List (I may have got the order wrong in places but all of the below were definitely played)

Falling Down A Mountain
Keep You Beautiful
Sometimes It Hurts
The Other Side Of The World
Dying Slowly
Hubbard’s Hill
Factory Girls
Black Smoke
A Night In
Harmony Around My Table

No Man In The World
Can We Start Again?

City Sickness

On leaving, I picked up a copy of the gig-only CD “Tindersticks Live In Glasgow” and, brilliantly, for the first time in over a decade got one of the bootleg T Shirts being sold outside the venue. Only 40 more days until I see them again at Le Bataclan in Paris and on this form I simply can’t wait.

As an aside - it was good to see David Kitt performing as part of the band. If you aren’t familiar with him, and are curious, I would recommend checking out some of his brilliant solo albums. That guy has one beautiful voice.

As another aside – I calculated that Tindersticks were (I think) the 22nd band I have seen headline the Shepherds Bush Empire. For those interested the others were: Mercury Rev (4 times), Low (3 times), Yo La Tengo (2 times), Big Star, Sufjan Stevens, Midlake, Mogwai, PJ Harvey, Stereolab, Tortoise, Calexico, Cat Power, Lucinda Williams, Sigur Ros, The Charlatans, Badly Drawn Boy, Primal Scream, Embrace, Weezer, The La’s and Half Man Half Biscuit. Supporting these I have seen (amongst others) Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Broadcast, Doves & Teddy Thompson.

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