Tindersticks, Vienna Theater Akzent, 7 and 8 May 2012

Not much to add to my review of Tindersticks’ March concert in Vienna, in which I tried to articulate my ambivalent feelings as a long-time fan about the group’s change in direction since their split and subsequent regrouping. I will say that, over the course of this two-night residency, the Something Rain songs gained a sense of confidence and purpose that had certainly been lacking in the rather cautious earlier performance. Terry Edwards’ extended sax solo at the end of “Come Inside” was simply gorgeous, while the importance of David Boulter’s role as musical director was underscored time and time again by his shimmering and lustrous keyboard arrangements. On the other hand, Boulter’s spoken word narrative on “Chocolate” fell wretchedly flat. I’ve heard this song described as a close relative of “My Sister”, but there’s really no comparison between that early masterpiece and this mundane tale with its silly twist.

In six years of concertgoing in Vienna, I’d never previously been to Theater Akzent. The venue’s location was interesting in that it allowed me to gawp en route at the Theresianum, the famous private school next door, which I’d never seen before either. I hope the Akzent is used for gigs more often in the future, since the acoustics on these two evenings were full and clear. In fact, this was one of the principal benefits of these shows as against the March one. The Akzent was quite a bit bigger than I had expected, with circle as well as stalls seating, and the group were able to crank up the levels nicely compared to the rarefied atmosphere of the Radiokulturhaus. The girl sitting next to me was even blocking her ears during the loudest parts, which was not something I ever thought I’d see at a Tindersticks show. We’re not talking Swans levels here, but there was definitely a sense of the group using volume to enhance the impact of the music.

This turn to loudness made the transported demeanour of Stuart Staples all the more understandable. Looking like a respectable country gentleman from a Hardy novel, Staples closes his eyes while singing as if physically affected by the bittersweet intensity of his songs. And one can hardly blame him, confronted as he is by the painful resignation that dwells deep within songs like “Factory Girls” – a post-split song, to be sure, but also one of the evenings’ saddest and most deeply affecting moments. Having given so much stylish pleasure over the years, Tindersticks continue to enchant and delight.

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