by / March 31st, 2010 /

Tindersticks / Villagers – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

There is a certain irony that there is a young Irish man supporting Tindersticks tonight in Shepherd’s Bush. The first time this reviewer went to watch Stuart Staples and his entourage of brooding troubadours almost a decade ago in the Olympia in Dublin, a shy David Kitt played to a half empty ballroom before Tindersticks took to the stage.

Whether it’s a strange coincidence or just a matter of circumstances, David Kitt is now playing with Tindersticks and another young sombre Irish talent has got the gig of the support slot.

Walking onto the stage, Conor O Brien, aka Villagers, looks like he might be a little of his depth for the loyal faithful of eager fans queuing for the main act. Within minutes the crowd are on their feet and cheering this up and coming talent. There is something refreshing about the way this guy delivers his tunes , accompanied by just a guitar and piano, the shuttering vocals on songs like -Pieces’ have the crowd at the bar even stopping their conversations to hear what he has to say.

After a very impressive support slot, the main act doesn’t fail to disappoint either. Delivering their usual set of heart wrenching love ballads, Tindersticks play like a show band that’s on an hourly rate. David Kitt switches from guitarist to backing singer to xylophone, showing the diversity of the skills this band behold. But its Staples the wailing balladeer that holds the act together like a conductor, signalling for each song to start and end, the sweat on his brow increasing with every note. At one stage he confesses that he doesn’t care for this venue too much, but the company tonight is making it more interesting.

Most of the material comes from the new album with standout tracks such as ‘Black Smoke’, ‘Harmony around my table’, and ‘Factory Girls’, bringing the subdued loyal following close to tears. For the old timers, tracks like ‘Marbles and Tonight (you’re trying to fall in love again)’ are a rare treat.

In his Keatsian quest for a love that perhaps doesn’t exist, Staples is the ultimate romantic. After two encores they end with the poignant ‘Raindrops’. As the crowd step into the damp London night they have the haunting voice of Staples ringing through their ears: ‘Silence is here again tonight.’