6-3=12. Tindersticks effectively split in two in 2006 with the departures Of Dickon Hinchcliffe, Al Macaulay and Mark Colwill. Tonight, the remaining trio were bolstered by a new rhythm section of Thomas Belhom and Dan McKinna, and a seven piece string/brass/woodwind section who also added percussion and the occasional Greek chorus of backing vocals. The result was a deep, rich sound that accentuated the band’s cinematic tendencies. In contrast to the world-weary, slightly crumpled sextet of legend, the new Tindersticks displayed a palpable sense of fun, and were visibly enjoying themselves immensely.
The set was heavily weighted towards the new album The Hungry Saw which was played more or less in its entirety, with the first half of the record, in sequence, opening proceedings. A little stiff at first, the band hit their groove during the instrumental “E-Type” and from there never looked back. The title track with its complicated, syncopated percussion and a deeply moving “Boobar” were outstanding, as was main set closer “The Turns We Took”, a soulful epic in the “Chi-lite Time” mode” which featured a fantastic, understated two-note guitar solo by Neil Fraser – possibly the least flashy guitarist ever, and yet a solid bedrock of the band’s sound.
Keyboard player Dave Boulter had his moments in the spotlight, particularly during the three instrumentals aired tonight, but for the most part, all eyes were on Stuart Staples. Looking lean, fit and happy, the singer has a rumpled charisma. His voice will always be divisive, but it’s perfect for these songs of loss and regret. Few vocalists can express this kind of world-weariness with a naturalism that sounds absolutely sincere and unforced.
The back catalogue was dipped into during the second half of the set. The older material never overshadowed the new songs, though. “Dying Slowly” and “She’s Gone” were both highly charged with emotion. A non-duet version of “Travelling Light”, with lyrics changed accordingly, seemed a bit odd. The cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “16 Summers, 15 Falls” was superb.
City Halls is a fairly strange venue. Polished pine floors and neat rows of seats, coupled with a large, unadorned stage that is no more than a raised platform at one end of the room makes it a bit characterless. Filled with an attentive (no jabbering idiots, or dolts whooping in the middle of songs for once), appreciate audience, and a beautiful, rich sound, the slightly antiseptic nature of the room was forgotten. The encores were amazing. Odyssey’s heartbreaking ballad “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”, a pummeling, raw and intense reading of “Her”, and a desolate “The Not Knowing” which had a woman sat near me in floods. It all rounded off a memorable night. This was my seventh time – the first dating back to Manchester University back in 1993. I’ve never seen the band so powerful, and yet so relaxed. They seemed genuinely both pleased and humbled by the ecstatic ovations they were given at the end. They deserved every clap. Magnificent.