DUMBO's dark warehouses and cobble-stoned streets are a fitting locale for the songs of Ex-Tindersticks front man Stuart Staples. Safely away from the kids hunting down the next indie-dance sensation at this years CMJ, Staples got down to the business of heartache, loss, love, and regret. There was no dancing. No large white sunglasses. Not an ironic mustache in sight. Staples attracts the kind of folks that might actually consider wearing a bespoke suit to a gig and I'm pretty sure I saw one woman wearing a hat that involved plumes. Not your usual Saturday night in Brooklyn, in other words.
Since the 'Sticks went on hiatus after 2003's Waiting For The Moon, Staples' croaky baritone has floated not over orchestral noise freakouts but a quieter country-tinged sound that is just as sinister but with less instrumentation. Beggars Banquet has released both 2005's Lucky Dog Recordings 03-04 and the brand new Leaving Songs as a special two disc CD release this year and luckily Staples has embarked on a short tour of the US. With a touring band featuring Tindersticks alumni Neil Fraser (guitar) and Dave Boulter (keyboards) and unbelievable drummer Thomas Belhom, both solo records were addressed with slightly fuller, louder versions of songs like Leaving Songs opening one-two punch of "Goodbye To Old Friends" and "There Is A Path," and Lucky Dog's highlights, including "Marseilles Sunshine," "Friday Night," and "She Don't Have To be Good To Me."
The common thread throughout the evening was the fire-hot intensity that Staples delivers every single line. Sometimes its coupled with a smirk and a shaking of the head, and other times with a glare but it's obvious throughout that the man turns the minutia of life's moments and turns them into songs of naked intimacy that arguably work best in a live setting where every slight nuance in his voice or facial expression reveal more about lyrics like " I got that leaving feeling, this time it's here to stay..." Two covers were added to Staple's small set of solo works: Tim Hardin's "You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Die" and huge highlight "Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls" by the late Townes Van Zandt. Covers, only technically, as they fit perfectly into the Staples aesthetic.
While it's clear that Stuart Staples, solo or not, will never enjoy huge success in a country that has very little time for cerebral, meloncholic music that can't easily be turned into soda commercial jingles, I would highly recommend him to fans of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, and anyone that has sat alone at a bar in a rumpled suit jacket.