Arts: It's raining, raining on my head

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The Independent Culture
SET IN the distinct landscape of the Liss Ard gardens, this unique festival is a much smaller (and more relaxed) arrangement than the crowded frenzy of Glastonbury or Reading.

However, even before they've stepped on stage, Tindersticks are experiencing problems - rainwater seeps through the roof of the marquee, and as it drips on to the electrical equipment, there's an inevitable delay. When the band finally appear, the singer, Stuart Staples, strolls nervously up to the microphone and utters a sheepish apology. As they sweep softly into the sub-orchestral melodrama of "Another Night In", the episode is quickly glossed over.

Staples' idiosyncratic baritone is a perfect foil for Tindersticks' rambling beauty. His voice is clearer and more defined than of old and, in general, the band are more comfortable with themselves, following the crisis of confidence they endured while recording Curtains, their most recent studio album. They have a tendency to play slowly, but there's no rushing this stuff - wry intimacy of this ilk needs to be savoured.

A clutch of new songs receive an airing: "Never Cry" reveals a new twist on the sophisticated Tindersticks sound, while "If She's Torn" is a beautifully slow ballad, with the Hammond organ sounding like the prologue to a hymn.

There's a poignancy to these gentle exhortations, particularly on "A Night In", which finds Staples bathed in beams of white light and cast in soft focus as some form of holy icon. The spell is temporarily broken by the rain, as it continues to leak in and splatter on to the singer's head. Clearly angry, he stops mid-song, and for a few seconds resembles a deranged drunk looking to pick a fight with the nearest contender. Composing himself, he grabs a towel before launching into the next piece as if nothing had happened. Tindersticks' songs echo painful, reflective and quirky themes. As such they've every right to be precious about them.

Velimir Pavle Ilic