The singer but not the songs

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HAVING a singer indisposed can sound the death knell for some shows – Michael Jackson’s planned comeback residence at London’s O2 in 2009, for instance.

For others, however – such as every Sensational Alex Harvey Band concert since Harvey suffered a fatal heart attack in 1982 – the show must go on as the rest of the band carry on regardless.

Tindersticks opted for the latter response after singer Stuart Staples was rendered incapable of singing ahead of the Nottingham band’s show at the Sage Gateshead on Friday.

That decision will have been made easier by Staples’ indisposition being considerably less severe than those that struck down Jackson and Harvey – laryngitis, as opposed to premature death – and the fact that instrumentals were due to account for well over half the set anyway.

Not being able to sing didn’t stop Staples taking part in the show, though. He was present throughout the band’s hour-and-a-half set, playing instruments including a melodica and guitar, even if all he was able to contribute to some songs – such as Trouble Every Day – was a bit of thigh-slapping and head-swaying.

His sore throat didn’t even reduce him to a non-speaking role as he was able to apologise for his poorliness at the beginning and end of the show and also to reel out a list of thank-yous worthy of an Oscar acceptance speech, including literally everyone in the Sage’s half-empty Hall One.

The show – shorn of the short selection of crowd favourites due to follow the main act – consisted of pieces of music from the band’s soundtracks for six movies by the French film director Claire Denis performed in front of a big screen showing the relevant excerpts.

The concept – a throwback to the days when orchestras used to play in a pit in front of the stage as silent movies were screened – wasn’t a million miles away from a similar exercise undertaken by the Pet Shop Boys in singer Neil Tennant’s native North Tyneside in 2006, but for the fact that excerpts from several different films were screened rather than one movie, The Battleship Potemkin in the case of the alfresco Wallsend performance, being shown in its entirety.

Sex and death scenes – including one offering a bit of both – accounted for a sizeable proportion of the clips shown as a backdrop to Friday’s show, earning it an 18 rating.

Watching a succession of clips from different films being shown out of context one after the other was occasionally disorientating, but, due to the quality of the music on offer, the evening proved a worthwhile exercise.

It also held out the promise of even better things to come as Staples promised to return at a later date and sing too much rather than not at all.