Tim Burgess and the boys show that despite meddling with more styles than a footballer's wife with Alzheimers, those singalong anthems do more than enough to fill in the occasional blank...
The Charlatans have never been out and out showmen, never ones for gesticulating, throwing shapes, comedy or pyrotechnics. They are getting on, but the fact is they’ve never really gone to town on madness, preferring to keep their cool and their image intact.
So what’s the allure? Ok, Tim Burgess is a sexy little urchin, and tonight even more so dressed like a street waif in waist coat and scarf reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke’s singing chimney sweep, but that’s not enough to fill out a career spanning nearly 20 years. Tonight, though, the answer is evident to the hundreds of Virgin Mobile customers who’ve come to see them, a ton of great songs.
Misty’s Big Adventure begin by warming the audience up with their poetic take on modern culture infused with melodies straight out of The Divine Comedy’s songbook, while their dancing Voodoo shaman, the Erotic Volvo (Misty's Bez), whoops a reluctant crowd into appreciation. It's only with the sudden surge forward prior to the stage lights dimming for the main event that the crowd really let it be known why they're here – to witness the cult heroes of baggydom.
The Charlatans blast through an energetic opening set of old and new, and suddenly you can see why they endure. New tracks 'Muddy Ground' and 'NYC (There’s No Need To Stop)' never really break into a full sprint, but the beauty of The Charlatans is that after every new reggae experiment they have the ability to throw in a 'North Country Boy' or a 'Just Looking' and have the crowd flailing and jumping just as they did back in their mid-90s heyday. Latest single 'Blackened Blue Eyes' is the most consummately performed of all the new material, but it still takes 'One To Another' to bring the crowd back to the brink of ecstasy.
The Charlatans have a not so glorious tradition of experimentation, especially over the last three falsetto laden albums, but when you released your first greatest hits album nearly ten years ago, you know that attempts at discovering the ‘new sound’ can always be backed up by any number of songs which have soundtracked New Labour, football heartaches, and losing your virginity during the '90s. An upbeat, near dance version of 'Beautiful Friend' is a shining example of a successful experiment, and suggest Burgess’ collaborations with The Chemical Brothers are not forgotten.
A rousing and prog-like 'Sproston Green' ends the night on an energetic highnote, and has the desired effect of leaving everyone wanting more, and that’s the best thing about The Charlatans, they’ve probably got another 2 hours worth of radio friendly indie anthems to deliver. But tonight they decide to leave it at that.