Tindersticks: Medicine you need

Tindersticks | Barbican Centre | 29 April 2016

Photo credit: Tindersticks

“We’re trying something different.”

Stuart Staples’ whispered introduction is as on point as the show itself. It’s a  “cine-concert” featuring Tindersticks performing their cinematic new album from start to finish, with each track accompanied by a specially commissioned short film. So even as the band members are dwarfed by visuals of raindrops on windows, driving, a late-night swim, taxidermy, and a 1950s wedding, the songs are not. Instead, each clip complements – and sometimes even enhances -.‘The Waiting Room’ experience. By avoiding fixed narratives and literal recreations of the lyrics, these are mood pieces as open to interpretation as the music.

Take ‘Help Yourself’. Matched to footage of a man walking through a bustling train station, acknowledged only by looks of xenophobic mistrust, the joyous jazz explosion suddenly sounds like less of a celebration. The almost banal, lingering shots of bingo shops, amusement arcades, and a family fun park well past their prime only amplify the melancholy already underpinning ‘Hey Lucinda’. And the visual impact of a child with a spade dwarfed by giant trucks matches the power, drama, and awe encapsulated in set highlight ‘We Are Dreamers!’. A thunderous celebration of human achievement, its force contrasts the otherwise meticulously restrained approach applied not just to the new songs but the classics that bookend the show.

The quintet, joined by two brass players often tasked with reinterpreting lavish string arrangements, perform with a sensitivity that supports Staples’ delicate croon, whether it’s the fragile rendition of Peggy Lee’s ‘Johnny Guitar’, the shuffling ‘Medicine’, minimalist ‘She’s Gone’, or tender ‘My Oblivion’. The audience respond in kind, with a hushed reverence, until the encores bring them to their feet. And with good reason. ‘Show Me Everything’ bounces, ‘Slippin’ Shoes’ swings, ‘A Night So Still’ haunts, and each showcases a different side of a unique band who’ve  tonight created a one of a kind experience.


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