Wednesday, 24 March 2010

tindersticks at the O2 shepherds bush

A short excursion to the massive high-tech car park under Westfield shopping centre today, before heading to Shepherd's Bush Green.

The shopping mall looms large over an area of victorian terraced housing mixed with small shops specialising in unblocking phones and others as KFC look-alikes selling all manner of al-Halal chicken specialities.

Then past the Green which has survived the huge giratory systems of Shepherd's Bush, now made even more complex since the arrival of the mega mall like some District 9 spacecraft.

I was heading for a music concert at the still ornate Empire theatre, now renamed as the O2 Empire Academy but was slightly early for the pre-arranged pizza rendezvous. I stopped for a swift drink at the dimly lit and sofa laden Defector's Weld, before passing a group of very loud cider drinkers on the way to the restaurant on Rockley Road.

Later our group moved back to the Empire, deftly bypassing the queue by waving our O2 phones and arriving in time to see part of the set by the Villagers. A brief stop at the bar to buy a coca-cola and then into the crowd in preparation for the main event.

Our group contained fans of the band, whilst my knowledge was more based upon some recent revision of their most recent album and a small collection of other tracks.

I should explain that my impression of Tinderstick's music is of a somewhat deliberately crafted form of morose and downbeat descriptions of the sorrows of love.

In the right mood this can work very well.

Their latest album added some more upbeat edges to some of their work, but the swelling rhythm guitar and minor chord based ballads were certainly in evidence within the set performed this evening.

This gave me something of a challenge during the evening.

It was obvious that there were many people around me totally enjoying the evening and applauding loudly and recognising every song (bar maybe one or two).

This was more difficult for me and the mix of the lead singer's quite baritone vocals was a little unclear on the sound system.

So I found this more as music with a wash of sound rather than with good lyrics to admire.

It was probably my loss, but the impression therefore became one of listening to the instrumentation which was somewhat levelled out by the style of the singing. It was also difficult to see the band's connection with the audience. When it's live, I prefer it to be acknowledged that we've bothered to turn up, just as I'll always try to signal a thank you to a small musician playing in a bar.

To me, this concert was more 'run on rails' than 'engaged with the audience' and it did make me wonder whether something had happened before they all came on stage. Certainly at the end they clapped to the audience and waved as they left the stage, but during the show, the frontman really only engaged with his own rhythm section.

So this one leaves me confused. I wanted to be impressed but felt slightly disappointed. I spotted the clever time signatures on some of the parts and the mischief in the arpeggiated keyboards. The wave like chord progressions. For sure, there were some stand out tracks.

But I'm still not sure. I think I need to check the records again.

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