In the realm of rock music, there’s a thin line between drama and melodrama –between the lush soundscapes of a Scott Walker and the ponderous monochromes of an Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The Tindersticks, one of the few post-modern British bands to dabble in serious orchestration and unabashed spectacle, have spent a decade tiptoeing up to but rarely crossing that line.
While the band has recorded with string sections several times in the past, this outdoor perf marked its first full-blown stateside appearance in that mode –and the 18-strong augmentation added much to the Tindersticks’ innate theatricality. That tenor was particularly palpable on brooding, lunging songs like “Until the Morning Comes,” which opens with singer Stuart Staples intoning a deadpan reflection about murdering a loved one in the heat of passion.
Staples’ quavering baritone conveys a sense of shellshock — one that he applies to both the darkness and the dawn, the ghosts of lovers past and the idealized images of lovers yet to come. He cuts quite an odd figure onstage, sensibly suited and sporting a Freddie Mercury-styled mustache, whispering between-song thanks almost inaudibly before loosing his sepulchral growl — a voice reminiscent of a depressive Barry White.
String arrangements by regular violinist Dickon Hinchcliffe skirted cliche. While powerful, the additional players couldn’t drown out the trademark Gallic-styled acoustic guitar interplay between Staples and Neil Fraser. Band reached its vortex on swelling late-set numbers like “Talk to Me” and “City Sickness,” and while few in attendance had yet heard material from the just-released Beggars Banquet album “Waiting for the Moon,” the smattering of songs from the disc were enthusiastically received.
The Tindersticks play the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles on Aug. 12.