REVIEW: Tindersticks, The Sage Gateshead

Tindersticks.
Tindersticks.

If anyone were after evidence as to why Tindersticks have developed into one of Britain’s most acclaimed cult acts, here, emphatically, was the answer.

On their first visit to region in five years, Wednesday night saw the Nottingham outfit treat The Sage to a performance of sublime minimal elegance, showcasing not only the strength of their back catalogue, but also why they remain such a potent creative force.

Beginning at 8 o’clock prompt, the show was essentially split into three sections – though half of the audience clearly overlooked the memo, and didn’t stagger in until midway through.

What they missed in that opening segment was a bona fide slowcore masterclass, littered with highlights from the breadth of their 24-year career.

Beautifully recreated with all the nuance and subtleties heard on record, these songs came fleshed out with Tindersticks’ primary weapon – not distortion or unnecessary sonic flutters, but rather silence.

It takes an accomplished set of musicians to pull off such naked craft, and the current five-piece line-up are precisely that, with drummer Earl Harvin and guitarist Neil Fraser showing some particularly deft touches.

Indeed, it’s shows like this where Hall One’s unspoken rule of silence comes into its own - there were times during this opening act where you could hear a figurative pin drop, with band leader Stuart Staples barely brushing his acoustic strings.

After a short interval, the evening was then turned on its head, with the group diving into a front-to-back performance of new album The Waiting Room.

A sharp departure, this was, in effect, a fully-fledged art piece, pairing each song with a specially-commissioned short film backdrop.

These vivid visuals brought further life to and in some cases recontextualised an already evocative base of material, be it through expertly edited time-lapses (Lucinda), black and white nostalgia (How He Entered) or foreboding, hypnotic imagery (We Are Dreamers).

With the audience still dazzled, the group returned to their previous set-up for a trio of obligatory encores; a welcome add-on to a thoroughly fulfilling and engaging live experience.