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Music

Tindersticks, Barbican

“Tindersticks can seemingly infuse any genre with their unique swing…”

It’s two decades since Tindersticks’ debut was Melody Maker’s album of the year, its blend of gritty chamber pop and dark romance standing alone amongst the era’s grunge and burgeoning Brit-pop scenes.

Stuart Staples and co have taken a very singular path in the intervening years, and this 12-date anniversary tour – accompanied by the release of retrospective LP Six Leap Years – is a celebration of how they’ve arrived in 2013.

The band sketches out a handful of smoky, sombre tracks, beginning with the stark and plaintive Tricklin’

In the first of tonight’s two sets, the band sketch out a handful of smoky, sombre tracks, beginning with the stark and plaintive Tricklin’. Staples sits at the front, large frame compressed onto a spindly-looking chair, wholly engaged with his emotive lyrics.

With red lights illuminating the stage, and the string and horn sections adding subtle touches, the audience is transported to some backwater Continental bar, where shadowy figures drink shots and light up Gitanes. It’s no coincidence that Tindersticks are adept at turning out moody film soundtracks, or that the band’s personnel live in various European cities.

The second set picks up the pace, taking us on a perfectly-pitched tour of career highlights. From the exquisite, sweeping melodrama of Another Night In to their sublime cover of Odyssey’s soul classic, If You’re Looking For A Way Out, it’s apparent that Tindersticks can seemingly infuse any genre with their unique swing.

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This is brought home when they turn to recent album, The Something Rain, the metronomic groove of Show Me Everything followed by an exhilarating Fire of Autumn, guitarist Neil Fraser nonchalantly pulling off that ’70s funk vibe.

Stuart Staples’ remarkable voice – deep, yearning and tender, as if covered in the thickest of black molasses – is the rock amongst the swirl of musical ideas, and it’s a joy to listen to. For encore and crowd favourite Travelling Light, he duets with backing vocalist Gina Foster, who smiles, shimmys and matches his road-weary musings with a superbly restrained performance.

We don’t get ’Sticks classic Tiny Tears, but it doesn’t matter. Perhaps it’s another sign of a new chapter for this special band. Here’s to the next 20 years.

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