Tindersticks – 17th September 2006

Don’t Look Back is simultaneously joyous and priggish. It’s eclectic, a programme giving equal billing (more or less) to Green On Red and Ennio Morricone. But there’s also a sense of smugness about it with the implicit suggestion that they’re striking a blow against the singles / iPod mentality and restoring the beauty of classic albums to their rightful places. And then there are the Tindersticks.

Back in 1994, the Tindersticks were hugely important to me. I hit a massive personal low that year, and that first beautiful album is the one thing that I can remember that helped me through. This may be the memory cheating. This may be may assigning significance after the event. But I know that I was as in love with that album as I’ve ever been with any album, and that I had a huge amount invested in the upcoming second album.

But if I’d seen the Tindersticks on tour back then, and they’d just knocked out the album, in track-by-track sequence, I’d have been pissed off. Part of the gig magic is the unpredictability, as they themselves would perhaps say, the Not Knowing. And maybe Don’t Look Back circumvents this by being a series of events. It’s not like they’re going out on tour and playing the same set a dozen times in two weeks. It’s a one-off, unless they sell lots of tickets, in which case it’s a two-off.

I’m rambling, please forgive my conflicted feelings.

The Tindersticks fansites are full of speculation. The band have not played live or released anything for a few years. They all seem to be getting on quite nicely without each other. The band seem to be on hiatus – is this gig going to be a swansong?

No, it is an event.

That second album establishes its mood from the first with the strings swooping all over El Diablo En El Ojo, and Dickon’s mumbled words drawing us in ever closer. It’s music of smoky rooms, of bare lights, of peeling wallpaper. It’s hugely atmospheric and yes, it is thrilling to see this many people up on stage skillfully re-establishing that intimate landscape.

And that gig-magic is still there, just a little off-kilter. Instead of the anticipation and the hope that they might play our favourite song, you’ve got the nervous knowledge that, 2 tracks down the line, they’re going to play My Sister, Tiny Tears, Travelling Light, or Mistakes.

Stuart isn’t very chatty, it’s not a perfect gig, and if push came to shove, I’d take the first form of magic over what we were given here, but for a band that’s so close to hibernation, this show is a triumphant vindication of their art and a surprisingly uplifting reminder of how sad music can still make lots of people very very happy,

And I’m sure I’ll feel exactly the same about next years series of shows. And I’m sure that I’ll still go to one of them.

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