Tindersticks live at Somerville Theatre, March 7, 2009
It's not much of a feat for an amplified musician to show power, especially live. It's not so easy to show class at the same time. Nottingham's Tindersticks have risen to this challenge again and again over nearly two decades.
We knew what we were in for Saturday at the Somerville Theatre when the players, all smartly dressed in shirts (sans ties) and blazers, strolled out one at a time to fit a wordless tune together with instruments sneakily added like Jenga pieces. Lead Tinderstick Stuart Staples sauntered out to rapturous applause as the piece ended, turned to the rest of the band, closed his eyes, counted a "one, two, three, four," and led the languorous "Yesterday's Tomorrows" and an ensuing set that saw the band lay down a thick blanket of forcefully maudlin Anglo-soul. At times, Staples had the jittery energy of a man overtaken by soul, but he kept his eyes shut, and his nuanced moaning didn't front the music so much as guide it slowly through steep, rolling hills and valleys. It was all about thoughtful restraint, softening the blow of the generally downer vibe so that the music's impact could be sustained through the nearly two-hour set.
Staples's signature quivering croon sounded, to my ears, like Barry Gibb with a gun to his head and being told that if he so much as approaches falsetto range: blammo! Staples's crack band, with original keyboardist David Boulter and guitarist Neil Fraser, handled the perpetually shifting dynamics of a set that leaned heavily on new "comeback" LP The Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet). On set-proper closer "The Turns We Took," blaring horns overtook melancholy like rays of sunlight after a long sleepless night.
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