Gig Review by John Murphy with Photography by John Bentley

Tindersticks at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

Visual albums are, apparently, all the rage now. Yet if you were slightly bemused a couple of weeks ago when someone asked if you’d “watched the new Beyonce album yet?’, let me explain. A visual album is simply a record where each track is accompanied by its own tailor-made video. The Waiting Room, the eleventh album from Nottingham’s Tindersticks, was released back in January, and some editions of the record were packaged with the ‘visual album’ version.

It’s this version of The Waiting Room which takes centre stage on Tindersticks’ latest tour, with the band playing the entire album in order, while the videos for each song play on a big screen behind them. Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall is pretty much tailor made for their brand of swooning, slightly morose ballads and it’s clear that the venue’s acoustics are perfectly suited from the instance the opening notes of Keep You Beautiful ring out.

Tindersticks at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

Before the main event, there’s 40 minutes or so of selected highlights from Tindersticks’ career to date. Sadly, there’s very little played from the band’s wonderful first two records, with only a magnificent version of She’s Gone, with the stage bathed in red light, representing the early days. There’s still plenty to enjoy though, including a rollicking Boobar Come Back To Me, a gorgeous My Oblivion and a cover of the Peggy Lee classic Johnny Guitar. Anyone looking for stage banter will be disappointed (a murmured ‘thank you’ from lead singer Stuart Staples after each song is as close as it comes) but it’s really enough to luxuriate in the wondrous warmth of those songs.

Tindersticks at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

After a quick 20 minute break, it’s time for the main event and an big screen is unveiled to show The Waiting Room’s videos. It’s fair to say that most of these videos are pretty abstract, but it’s undeniable they add an extra element to these sad, mysterious songs. Hey Lucinda (a duet with the late singer Lhasa De Sela) is poignant enough on its own but when you see it with visuals of a rundown old seaside town, the effect is devastating.

Tindersticks at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

Similarly, Were We Once Lovers has an urgent, yearning quality to it that’s enhanced enormously by the accompanying video of a POV camera at the front of a speeding car. Elsewhere, there’s a man wandering around the departure hall of a French railway station during Help Yourself, while We Are Dreamers features some close ups of the enormous wheels of a truck, giving the unsettling impression that the band are about to squashed underneath them.

It gives Tindersticks a previously unseen visual element, but to tell the truth, they’re not the sort of band who need a visual gimmick. It’s enough to see Staples lost in the music, occasionally strapping on a guitar or blowing into a melodica, but mostly pouring his heart and soul into his mysterious chamber-pop songs. This year marks their 25th anniversary, but they remain as compelling and magnificent as ever.

Tindersticks at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

Leave a Reply