In a year that has seen the north rise from a void left in the mid nineties, it was now ‘The Charlatans’ time to shine and keep the nostalgic wave that’s currently streaming through Manchester alive and kicking. Tonight was all about the 15th anniversary of their ‘Tellin Stories’ album, the record that brought more commercial success than any other, and it was their sixth, quite a remarkable achievement in moving with the times to remain at the top.
The album was initially played in full, and songs such as ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘One to Another’ brought out the musical aggression in the die hard fans who’ve adopted ‘The Charlatans’ music as a personal soundtrack to life. From where I was sat up in the clouds, the energy of the crowd looked like a violent tidal wave that threatened to spill over onto the stage at any given moment. It looked absolutely fantastic as the jumping around was almost in perfect synchronicity and harmony with each other, bound by a universal connection of great Manchester indie rock. Even after ‘North Country Boy’, singer Tim Burgess announces, ‘It’s good to be back’, probably from the lively tirade he’s just witnessed in appreciation of his music.
The band are in fine form, the years spent together are obvious as every note is played to perfection with the tightness of the band effortlessly shining through. The sound hasn’t changed one bit, a very Mancunian chilled vibe and beat with keyboards that befit that time, and guitar that snakes its way into our subconscious, the very distinguishing sound of a ‘Charlatans’ mind bending track. Even though we’re talking about music written twenty years ago, it still sounds just as fresh and original as it did on first release, but much louder in a stimulating way. In fact, my ears are still ringing now.
Burgess is a great presence, caressing the microphone in his accustomed way of both hands clasped around the top, singing very closely from underneath which adds power and passion to his vocals. Even though the hair colour has now changed from black to blonde, he still looks cool as it covers his eyes. He oozes confidence as he slides, bobs and weaves around the stage meticulously like a boxer in a wiry manner, sometimes standing isolated at the front of the stage to the side absorbing the sheer adulation the crowd throws at him.
The briefest of intervals occurs after an hour with the album now complete and they reappear to an onslaught of nostalgic hits that livens the crowd further, if that was possible, with hits such as ‘Weirdo’ and ‘Forever’. The encore sees them play ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’, the timeless, ‘The Only One I Know’ and ends with ‘Sproston Green’, an explosion of classics that really completes the set list as it crescendos to a climatic peak.
The performance was evident that ‘The Charlatans’ should not be forgotten about as a force and importance to northern music. Many believe them to be underrated and that may be true, but the show tonight was highly entertaining with professional delivery that highlighted why they still have such a pulling power that epitomises music from our northern world. No plans for a new album have been mentioned yet, but with the reaction of the crowd towards tonight’s show, it must surely be suggested and discussed over the coming days and weeks.Review by Nigel Cartner