[NOTE: Let’s just pretend there’s a well-written introduction here about how Tindersticks used to be my favorite band and how I was so excited when they announced a brief North American tour and how I ordered a concert ticket and booked a flight all the way to Boston just to see them perform at the Somerville Theatre. Let’s pretend I’ve already mentioned how annoying it is that Tindersticks don’t have a “the” in front of their name. Let’s imagine I’ve written about all that and let’s skip to the part where I dissect the setlist into four parts and tell you about Stuart’s muffled vocals and the loud horns and the fact that Boston audiences will clap at anything and how a drunk guy belched during the middle of “All the Love” and how despite all that, the show turned out to be a good one and well worth the trip. Yeah, let’s forget about commas and pretend.]
I. The Hungry Saw (first half) – Introduction/Yesterdays Tomorrows/The Flicker of a Little Girl/Come Feel the Sun/E-type/The Other Side of the World/The Organist Entertains
Stuart Staples’ voice is the main reason I’m a Tindersticks fan, so it came as a huge let down that the vocals on the early songs were muffled. I’m not sure if it was a problem with the venue or the sound guy or the absurd volume of the horns, but I had difficulty making out any of the vocals. It sounded like Stuart was singing through a pillow…a pillow under water. If I hadn’t known all the lyrics, I wouldn’t have had any idea at all what he was going on about.
It wasn’t all disappointing, though. “Introduction”, “E-type”, and “The Organist Entertains” are all instrumentals and they sounded great. “E-type” needs to be singled out as the hands down highlight of this portion of the set. It was amazing.
II. Older Songs Mini-Set – Dying Slowly/Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls (Townes Van Zandt)/Say Goodbye to the City/Sleepy Song/She’s Gone
“Dying Slowly” is one of my favorite Tindersticks songs, but Stuart’s vocals were still so muffled that it sounded like he was singing, “Weydisdyingschwoeyishsheemsbitterdanshooshinmyelf”. Things were just not sounding right to me and I was starting to get grumpy. Still, it was cool to hear a Townes Van Zandt song. “She’s Gone” was also tolerable.
III. The Hungry Saw (second half) – The Hungry Saw/Mother Dear/Boobar Come Back to Me/All the Love/The Turns We Took
It wasn’t until the band returned to The Hungry Saw that things started to sound right vocally. I don’t know if they made an adjustment to the mix or told the horn guys to shut the hell up, but “Mother Dear” was the first song of the night (with vocals) that sounded right to my ear. “Mother Dear” is my least favorite song from The Hungry Saw, but it sounded incredible. It was the first example of the musical beauty I’d been expecting from the beginning. The band’s performance just got better from there.
Unfortunately, the upturn in sound quality happened at the exact same time a drunken idiot started clapping in the middle of the songs. “Mother Dear” and “Boobar Come Back to Me” were both marred by inappropriate clapping. The next song, “All the Love”, featured a full-on belch from the same guy. The moron managed to keep his hands still and his mouth shut on the last song of the main set.
In most cases, audience idiocy ruins a song or a show for me. I didn’t let it happen this time, though. I was so happy that I could hear Stuart Staples’ voice for the first time all night, that I didn’t let the boorish behavior bother me. Go ahead and burp and clap in the middle of a slow song…I don’t really care as long as the vocals sound right and the band is on and the music is making me happy and sad at the exact same time.
IV. Encore Set – Buried Bones/My Oblivion
Tindersticks wrapped up the night with “Buried Bones” and “My Oblivion”. Sure, I would’ve liked to hear “City Sickness” or anything off Simple Pleasure (still the best Tindersticks record), but the band didn’t ask my opinion and I’m not one of those rubes who shout out their thoughts in theatres. My complaint with the encores wasn’t one of song selection, but of length. At this point, everything had come together: the band was sounding amazing and the drunk guy had either passed out or left. Tindersticks could have played ten more songs and I would’ve been happy. They could have started over and replayed the first half of The Hungry Saw. I still want to hear “The Flicker of a Little Girl” with proper vocals. I wonder if there are tickets available for the Chicago show. I could drive there. Hmmm.