Tindersticks in Hyde Park should have been a terrific show – the band were wonderful as always, but the last of the Serpentine Sessions shows was probably one of the most atmosphere-free events I’ve ever been to; astoundingly perverse on a balmy summer’s evening. The Sessions were a series of shows designed to make use of one of Hyde Park’s stages on the gap between the Hard Rock Calling gigs last weekend, Blur tomorrow and Friday, and next week’s Wireless shows. I’m a sucker for Tindersticks’ lush orchestration, so when I found out they were playing, I splashed out £25 + £4.50 Ticketmaster booking fee + £3.25 fee for printing out my own ticket with my own paper and ink. Ah, the joys of going to big-ish gigs.
What did I get for my £32.75? Two stages – one a tiny bandstand where a couple of unremarkable acoustic acts played. And another… in a tent. On one of the hottest evenings of the year, with the sun streaming down, we had to go into a dark tent to watch Tindersticks and Big Star play. No lounging around by the Serpentine watching the bands – in fact, no sight of the lake at all, in fact – this was going to be an evening of mournful swaying in the dark.
Oh yes, and the suspicion that my £32.75 had also subsidised a hell of a lot of guest listers.
So while it was very nice to sit in the sun swigging cider with chums, it them seemed a bit of a chore to go inside a dark tent, whose accoustics muffled the sound, where people couldn’t smoke (and got nagged for smoking just outside), far away from the bars and the sunshine that seemed the main attraction for paying £25 + £4.50 + £3.25 to sit around and listen to music. “It’s like the second stage at a festival, but without the festival,” a mate said. At this most middle-class of events, I caught one poor group sat around trying to have a picnic inside the tent – clearly they’d also thought they’d be able to see the band outside.
By the encore, I gave up, and twigged what my pals had realised before me – the gig could just as easily be enjoyed by sitting in the sunset outside the bar, listening to the sound from the tent. I’m not sure £32.75 was worth it for what was, effectively, the equivalent of listening to the radio at the bottom of the garden.
At least Tindersticks were great, although in a passion-free tent the gig just didn’t seem to work very well (a few years back I saw them play a mesmerising set at Somerset House, which was more the kind of event I was expecting). Hopefully, the Serpentine Sessions will sink, or at least be rethought, for next summer.
But in a live music industry with the gall to charge £7.75 in service charges on a £25 ticket, they probably don’t really need to. I’ll think again next time…