In support, sunny sounds come from a reformed Big Star - the most influential band you’ve probably never heard. Formed in Memphis in 1971, they took the best bits of the British invasion (The Beatles, essentially) and West Coast pop (Byrds, Beach Boys), creating a new direction for power pop and yet remaining a cult prospect. Hearing them today, though, there’s no denying the sheer force of such bold, bright melodies and effervescent four-part harmonies. The bubblegum 60s pop of quintessential high school tracks ‘13’ and ‘Don’t Lie To Me’ feel like they’re engraved in stone. The sad songs couldn’t sound sweeter, the upbeat songs are a sugar rush; you don’t know what you’re missing ‘til you hear them.
Tindersticks have spent the past year touring last album The Hungry Saw, so tonight’s one-off summer appearance is a chance to break from the responsibilities that entails; backed by a string section and horns, they take in songs from every album, paying particular attention to Tindersticks II. Opening with the seedy dive-bar stumble of ‘Rented Rooms’ and the swingin’ ‘Can We Start Again?’, it’s a good sign of the diversity in the set to come. ‘She’s Gone’ is elegant and shimmering in waltz time; there are the rugged mariachi sounds of ‘Her’ and ‘The Hungry Saw’.
Highlights come in the shape of old favourites, long forgotten live. ‘A Night In’ sees Stuart A Staples stoically placed centre-stage, the string section his foil as they rage around him. Better still, the driven take on ‘City Sickness’, the song that brought them attention originally, is a rare treat, reaffirming that it should be enshrined in an indie hall of fame.
Closing the main set with ‘The Turns We Took’ - equal parts Temptations to Leonard Cohen - and the encore with a rootsy, Southern soul-influenced ‘If She’s Torn’, and ‘Tiny Tears’ in all its heartbroken glory, this may not just have been the most unexpected set of songs in a while, it may be the best they’ve ever played.
Image courtesy of maccosta under a Creative Commons licence.