By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature
Steamrolling onto the music scene during the 90’s Madchester and Britpop explosion, The Charlatans have carved their name into the sacred halls of British music royalty. Their discography, spanning over three decades, seeks to explode with cathartic energy. Their most recent 30th Anniversary Tour (now 31st due to Covid delays) has made its way to the O2 Bristol with a sold out, career spanning show which delivered on that bottled magic that first made the band so addictive.
During the lockdown last year, the bands front man Tim Burgess became an unsung hero for music lovers with his #TimsTwitterListeningParty series. The series involved Burgess live tweeting his thoughts on an album alongside a music guest. All of this love and affection for the floppy haired front man becomes very clear as the band takes the stage.
As the lights dim, projections of videos from throughout the bands career are shown, including live performances and behind the scenes footage. The band enter the stage and begin the mountainous build of their track ‘Forever’. As the song clatters into its chaotic groove, Burgess enters the stage to ecstatic applause from the crowd. Quickly following, the band smash into their classic alt dance track ‘Weirdo’. The excruciatingly cold night seems to have had an effect on the crowd’s movement with only a few people bobbing here and there.
The O2 all of a sudden burst to life when the band breaks in to ‘Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over’. The spectacular projections continue to draw everyone’s attention, with stunning visuals and throwback videos of a live performances or music videos. This all helps to reinforce how the band managed to transition through innumerable musical changes of the guard and come out the other side as not only stronger but still a momentous force in British rock music.
Suddenly, when the eternal ‘One to Another’ starts its huge warbling intro, the crowd kicks into gear. Beer cans fly, water and sweat mix together in a manic mosh that continues for the rest of the show. It’s rare for a band to put one of their most acclaimed and well-known songs dead in the middle of the set, however it becomes clear just how many beloved tracks the band has. Every lyric begins to be thrown right back at the band by the crowd. It’s also amazing to hear how many of the band’s new songs the entire O2 seem to know. Songs like ‘Plastic Machinery’ and ‘Different Days’ sound right at home, as though they have been lived in for decades.
The triple punch of ‘The Only One I Know’, ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘How High’ end the raucous show on one hell of a level. After a small interlude, the band come back out and keep the crowd moving a bobbing in perfect harmony. The finale of ‘Sproston Green’ gives the band an opportunity to really show you how in sync and tight they are. The rhythm section throughout the show along with Mark Collins’ euphoric guitar have almost stolen the limelight from Burgess’ looming jester-like figure.
The entire crowd would have been more than happy to have stayed for another 5 or even 10 more tracks. The Charlatans don’t have anything to prove anymore. Their near flawless collection of danceable guitar rock speaks for itself and tonight they showed that they belong right alongside great 90’s Brit rock bands like Oasis or Pulp. As Burgess states in ‘One to Another’, ‘It's good to rock you and I'll do it the best that I can.’ Tonight they did just that.
Featured image: Sonic PR
Have you seen The Charlatans live?