Gig review by Zak Edwards with photography by Bianca Barrett

The Charlatans

I first saw The Charlatans waaaaaaayyy back in 1990 on a bleak Wednesday night, in Leeds at some tiny little club which housed 1000 people tops. Halcyon days. They’d literally just released ‘The Only One I Know’ and Tim Burgess was an impressionable floppy haired twenty three year old with mahoosive lips. They oooozed enthusiasm, potential and passion before what has now been a 25 year journey into the glorious world of the music industry. Interspersed in this last quarter century are colossal performances like Knebworth in 96 (Oasis) and a headline slot at Scotland’s T in the Park when they were bang on top of their game. The last time I saw them – V Festival 2013. It was here that I greeted by a very different band and one that I fell out of love with. Playing late on – to a half empty tent – fronted by a rather inebriated, ‘bottle of whisky’ wielding front man, they very much appeared to be a band that had lost all enthusiasm for their chosen profession and one which was very much, just going through the motions.

The Charlatans

I was therefore intrigued, to see which version of the Charlatans would be on stage at Leicester’s O2 Academy and very much hoped that it was the one full of verve and vigour that I’d been so lucky to see all those years ago.

The Charlatans

After the customary ‘reviewing/photographing a gig at the weekend getting in’ hassles, we finally managed to enter the venue about 2 minutes before the band came on – thanks in large to the promoter, Andy. The clientele were very much as you’d expect – 40 something year old mods, decked out in their finest chords and winkle pickers. Lovely stuff.

The Charlatans

With not so much time as to whet our proverbial whistles, the band had made their way to the stage fronted by a rather exuberant, blonde haired Mr Burgess. Out came my notepad, out came Bianca’s camera, up went the multitude of smart phones and we were in business.

The Charlatans

To the obvious delight of the crowd, the first track of 1999’s Us and Only Us album, ‘Forever’ was their opening gambit. A real atmospheric, builder of a tune which symbolises everything that is great about the band – booming bass, rip snorting Hammond and Burgess’s charming vocal. This bass heavy/organ intense theme continued with a glorious rendition of ‘Weirdo’ and went on right the way through to the first ‘biggie’ of the night; North Country Boy – cue rapturous applause, iPhone and Samsung Galaxies raised aloft, video buttons turned to ‘on’ and general mayhem in the mosh pit. Triffic!

The Charlatans

NCB maintained the loudest cheer of the night award, right up until the Mancunian/Dudley 4-piece burst into ‘How High’, which then itself was quickly trumped by a rather excellent ‘The Only One I Know’. Interspersed amongst these golden oldies were 7 tunes off their new album and some old classics such as the oh-so-catchy ‘You’re so Pretty, We’re so Pretty’ and the delightful ‘In the Tall Grass’.

The Charlatans

The much sought after encore was made up of newbie, ‘Lean In’ the excellent opener to 2006’s much maligned album Simpatico, ‘Blackened Blue Eye’s and the seemingly never ending ‘Sproston Green’. So had my love affair with the Charlatans been rekindled? You bet your bottom blooming dollar it had! They played for almost 2 hours and treated the crowd to almost one song for every year of their existence. Messer’s Burgess and Co seemed to be bang back on it and more importantly seemed to be really enjoying it which obviously emanated to the crowd who joyfully reciprocated.

The Charlatans

Set list: Forever / Weirdo / Talking in Tones / North Country Boy / So Oh / Tellin’ Stories / Trouble Understanding / Let the Good Times Be Never Ending / You’re so Pretty, We’re so Pretty / I Need You to Know / Oh Vanity / One to Another / Lot to Say / Emilie / Just Lookin’ / Just when You’re Thinkin Things Over / In The Tall Grass / How High / The Only One I Know / Come Home Baby Encore: Lean In / Blackened Blue Eyes / Sproston Green

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