Tindersticks, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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I sometimes feel I could measure my life out in Tindersticks shows. There was that first time, twenty years ago, when they were wired youngish men in sloping suits channelling a Bad Seeds-like raucous energy in an Edinburgh nightclub crammed to the rafters as the walls dripped with sweat. Then, some ten years later as they approached middle age with brooding glumness. The last time we met was in the sedate surrounds of the Usher Hall as they performed their soundtrack work for the films of Claire Denis. Tonight, we return to the Usher Hall and sedate is very much the appropriate word for this evening. Everyone is seated, hushed and reserved, while a prompt 8pm stage time is observed.

Tonight is billed as a cine-concert featuring material from their recent film and album project, “The Waiting Room”. But, first, we get the encore. At least, that's how it feels as Tindersticks take a very brief opening half hour to run through select numbers from their now extensive back catalogue. With his greying moustache invoking images of some strange hybrid of Lee Hazlewood and Dickie Davies, singer Stuart Staples still performs in a lugubrious heart-worn croon which could make grown men cry for lost loves, 1995's “She's Gone” proving particularly effective.

Then they're off stage for a near thirty-minutes interval, a somewhat lengthy break to take at this juncture when all we've had is a faintly somnambulant half hour. But the cinema screen comes down as backdrop and when Tindersticks return to perform “The Waiting Room”, they are a band transformed. A moody, cinematic drive takes over their music as they perform to a meandering mosaic of seemingly unconnected image trails. For one song, we find ourselves in a tense, Eurostar waiting terminal where feet shuffle and perhaps illegal border crossings are being considered. Elsewhere, we're stranded in dilapidated seaside towns where amusement arcades flicker for no-one's entertainment. Are these the waiting rooms of the piece's title? Empty spaces where human lives find themselves, wishing for transit but instead marooned in purgatory?

Whatever the meaning, it's a significantly more engaged and edgy Tindersticks who perform this part of the show as opposed to the slightly cosy feel of the first half. Perhaps Tindersticks, always a dramatic and potentially combustible proposition, are now more naturally attuned to making music for the moving image. They fit together perfectly.