As The Charlatans headed to Liverpool in support of latest LP Modern Nature, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson swerved the Mad Friday crowds and saw the band with more than a few hits up their sleeve.
2015 has been a good year for returning bands releasing solid albums. New Order‘s Music Complete has been lauded as their best work in over 20 years, Blur‘s The Magic Whip was far better than most expected it to be, and the Charlatans‘ latest effort Modern Nature was again a standout record of the year. In fairness, the Charlatans have never really been away. Yet it is still a good couple of decades since their peak, and to release an LP this strong so late in the game is not very often the case.
The Charlatans have enjoyed a bit of a re-emergence in recent years. They’ve become constant fixtures on the live circuit, and Tim Burgess’ venture into curating stages and selling hot drinks with Tim Peaks Diner has made him a mainstay at most festivals over summer. But this year in particular, the band have become a bit of a big deal again. They’ve had two major UK tours and performed the prestigious secret slot on the Other Stage at Glastonbury to a huge crowd. It’s fair to say The Charlatans are experiencing a second coming.
This was reflected in the sell out crowd tonight who piled into the venue early doors emitting an unbelievable amount of body heat. There can only have been one place on earth hotter than the O2 Academy tonight, and that’s the inside of a microwaved apple turnover. They’re treated to some Modern Nature early on, with two of the album’s stand out tracks in Talking in Tones and So Oh getting a run out, and receiving as big a reception as some of their classic tunes. The latter is a perfect snippet from the record, showcasing its soulful sound with instantly memorable choruses.
Tim Burgess, with his mushroom cloud of blonde hair, was completely engaging throughout. He was full of energy, had some great Bez-esque dance moves and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. There was just one problem though. You could barely hear a word he sang throughout the entire set. The sound was atrocious. Amateurish, even. Issues like this shouldn’t really be held against the band, it isn’t their fault after all. But in this case it really detracted from what could otherwise have been a solid set. Big hits didn’t have their usual impact, there were mumbles of disappointment around the crowd and it generally fell quite flat for big segments of the performance.
The band though, probably completely unaware of how things sounded out front, powered through, and did provide some real memorable moments from their back catalogue. Tracks such as North Country Boy and Just When You’re Thinking Things Over provided some huge sing-along opportunities, which were received with such love and appreciation, the fact that you couldn’t hear Burgess himself didn’t matter at all. This was also the case for the climax of the show with Modern Nature favourite Come Home Baby and The Only One I Know, their Madchester inspired indie classic.
If anything, tonight’s gig showcased what a solid back catalogue of singles The Charlatans have, but although there were some big moments, you probably shouldn’t judge them on this performance alone. Sort it out, O2 Academy.
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.