As two of Manchester’s biggest bands of the 90s head down the M62 for a night in Liverpool, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson witnesses two groups still at the top of their game.
With tonight’s one off show at the Echo Arena, there was no time for hanging around the pub until after the support band and rocking up last minute for the headliners. The venue was packed by half 7, with the sell-out crowd excited and expectant for tonight’s huge double header. With two of Manchester’s biggest bands from the 90s in the Charlatans and James joining forces for this co-headline show, it was always going to be a night to remember.
The first of the two co-headliners tonight was the Charlatans, who following their release their latest record Modern Nature, having been enjoying somewhat of a second wind since their initial heyday back in the 90s. It was a great album which has cemented Tim Burgess and co. well back into our consciousness, and that is reinforced tonight with a performance showing their music and older hits still sound as fresh and relevant today as they ever have.
Kicking off with the wacked out Weirdo, quickly followed by North Country Boy and the guitar pop jangle of Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over, the Charlatans played a career spanning set, packed wall to wall with crowd favourites. It’s easy to forget what a back catalogue of hits they’ve built up over their 20 plus years as a group, but tonight it’s just one tune after the other.
Tim Burgess, maybe the nicest man in pop, was on top form, bouncing and a moving around the stage for the entire set, stopping only a couple of times to take a picture of the loving crowd and post it on Twitter there and then. But just as much as the band’s great songs, it’s Burgess‘ likability that makes the Charlatans such an enjoyable band.
Building up to a huge climatic end to the set which featured The Only One I Know, Come Home Baby and Sproston Green, the band were joined by James’ Tim Booth and Andy Diagram for a cover of Echo and the Bunnymen‘s Rescue, dedicating it to the “four lads from Liverpool who shook the world.”
The bar for the night had been set, and it was going to take a lot for James to top it.
What followed was a band who clearly, like the Charlatans before them, are still very much on the top of their game. From the opening track Waltzing Along and right through to the very end the feeling in the Echo Arena was one of pure euphoria. The whole arena sang back every word from start to finish. It felt like a religious experience. For younger music fans it might not be apparent just how big a band James are and were, but on tonight’s showing you can make no mistake, this is a band that mean a great deal to a lot of people.
It was a tale of two Tim’s tonight, and following Burgess earlier on, Booth was on similar fine form. It only took three songs for him to climb into the crowd and perform Surfer’s Song from their latest record atop the arms and hands of the fans down the front, somehow still managing to hit every note while people rubbed and patted his head. He was just as energetic throughout, throwing the kind of shapes you’d expect to see in the Hacienda before performing one song while walking up through the seated area of the arena with the surrounding fans following him as if he were the Pied Piper.
Like the Charlatans earlier on, this was a set filled with hits, and the stripped back ballad of She’s A Star provided the evening’s iPhones in the air moment (modern life’s shit equivalent to holding your lighter aloft). It was absolutely stunning and provided a nice break between the big, expansive sounds of much of the other songs. Come Home brought Hacienda vibes to the arena bringing the main set to a huge close with its baggy beats and euphoric chorus.
Rejoining us for an encore, the band pack in four songs before the curfew, with Just Like Fred Astaire and Sometimes again getting the crowd singing every word back to Booth and co. before Tim Burgess joined to perform a huge rendition of James‘ biggest single Laid. The night was brought to a close with Nothing But Love, the lead single from their latest album Girl at the End of the World, ending the night with a huge climax and confetti falling on stage to top off an absolutely stunning set.
It was a night with two bands, who despite the fact they enjoyed their biggest success in the early 90s, have no interest in nostalgia. They feel as current as ever, and in tonight’s collision of the two great musical cities, have shown just how loved they are.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Sakura.