Tindersticks are now three albums into an unexpected and hugely satisfying second career act. Their latest release, February’s The Something Rain, was met with some of the best reviews of the band’s 20-year existence. It’s helped ensure that they can comfortably fill the courtyard of Somerset House on this atypically bright summer 2012 evening.
While Tindersticks’ three most recent albums aren’t a huge sonic departure from the six that comprise the first phase of their existence, the band may have drawn subconsciously a line between the two phases of their career.
It’s a line they see fit to cross only intermittently this evening. They play seven of The Something Rain’s nine tracks. When they do choose to delve into their substantial back catalogue, Tindersticks select deep cuts that complement The Something Rain’s sensual, nocturnal atmosphere, rather than the better-known songs that would have appeased casual fans.
It all means that the show resembles a beautiful plateau – one to be luxuriated in but not necessarily one that quickens the pulse. It also means that it was occasionally crying out for a bit of levity: a Tiny Tears, a Travelling Light or a City Sickness – something that could have lifted the crowd’s spirits above respectful appreciation. (That’s ‘levity’ in relative terms: even at their most upbeat, Tindersticks’ songs aren’t exactly Vengaboys.)
That hit-aversion is most keenly felt during the encore, which concluded with Cherry Blossoms from Tindersticks’ second, self-titled album: not just the slowest song of the evening, but also one of the slowest songs recorded by anyone, ever..
Still, the whole show is exquisitely played by the band, which these days comprises three original members supported by crack session men. The voice of Stuart Staples – who, crop-haired and moustached, now bears a vague resemblance to James Nesbitt – remains one of the most instantly-recognisable voices in rock: a rich, dark, trembling bass that’s especially powerful in a live setting.
All told, this was a fine gig – albeit one that required the audience to meet the band halfway. Those who were prepared to make the journey were amply rewarded.