Kicking off proceedings on this warm, sticky Sunday night was support band The Engineers, whose thick wall of sound seemed in keeping with the stifling, hazy atmosphere of the Academy. However after a couple of cooling beers in to their set the sound became fresher to the ears, reminiscent of Doves or early ’90s indie boys, Ride, pounding, feisty and quite euphoric. That said, the vocals lacked clarity and some tunes were a bit dull and dragging. Looking around at the head bobbing though it was a great build up, you could feel the anticipation for The Charlatans.
We were not to be disappointed. The crowd belted out support when they ambled on stage and Tim Burgess, never one for saying more than ten words a gig, sheepishly crept up to the mic and drawled ” how ya doin Bristol?”. The cracking opening riff to new album track, Feel The Pressure then filled the place and the band had us grooving along nicely.
Midway through their UK tour and the band sounded spot on, confident and assured as ever, as is the case when you’ve just released a new album of “back to your roots” indie /guitar classics. The band may well have been knocking out tunes for the last 14 years, but have never sounded stagnant, and have always rocked live.
A perfect example of this was on 1994 single Cant Get Out of Bed. Only the second tune in and going back through the singles archive and playing a blinder. Burgess’ vocals have never sounded any better than tonight. After toying with a falsetto style on the last album, Wonderland, it was back to the impassioned, Manc style of old, which tonight was brimming with confidence.
New tunes As I Watch You In Disbelief and the excellent Up At The Lake were pure barnstorming classic Charlatans, the rhythm section of Jon Brookes’ drums and Martin Blunt’s bass sounded crisp and perfunctory and had everyone “shoegazing” like we were back in the early nineties!
A brief excursion to last album, Wonderland, with singles Love Is The Key, and A Man Needs To Be Told went down a treat, showing these boys can write some passionate tunes without sounding trite. Tim was truly on point and loving it, stalking round the stage with arms open wide receiving the adulation they deserve, especially on the new songs like Apples And Oranges and the truly amazing Try Again Today.
Elf like guitarist Mark Collins seemed locked in the groove the whole night with stinging riffs and Byrds like, jangly guitar playing, especially on crowd favourites Weirdo and One To Another, the latter 1997 single sounding blistering and surging.
After finishing on the beautiful Loving You Is Easy, sung outstandingly by hammond player Tony Rogers, the band briefly departed the stage and came back on to stomping feet and Tim showering the steaming crowd with his water bottle.
Harmonica out for the sing-along of Impossible, and the storming, euphoric How High, followed by North Country Boy whipping the crowd into a frenzy, with arms raised showering these indie stalwarts with appreciation for the anthem they have given us.
Everyone wanted the old skool baggy classic The Only One I Know as a fitting ending but we were treated instead to the sublime Sproston Green. 14 years old but still anthemic, the build up a slow burning of bass guitar and swirling hammond organ. As Tim saluted the crowd and sauntered off to let his band groove out, I felt ecstatic that this band who I had grown up with through the nineties, still rocked, still pushed their own boundaries and were still up for it and sounding better than ever. To The Charlies!…”here come the soulsavers”!