The Charlatans Play for NHS Staff At Gorilla, Manchester. UK. 15/11/21




As The Opening Swirls of Hammond Organ and the Hypnotic Bass of  Forever Begin the Stage Fills with Smoke


As I drive into Manchester for tonight’s gig, the Motorway is closed due to an accident and a multitude of ambulances pass me to attend the scene. It’s  a serious pause for thought as tonight’s gig at Gorilla is a special show by The Charlatans to recognise NHS staff who work diligently to keep us all safe.

Located within the arches of the Whitworth Street West railway tracks, Gorilla is a mid-size venue a stone’s throw from the former location of the legendary Hacienda nightclub. A nightclub synonymous with the Madchester scene of the late 1980s and a scene that brought tonight’s band to everyone’s attention. So, it’s very apt that somewhere so close is where The Charlatans play the first date of their 30th anniversary tour, delayed from last year for obvious reasons.

What can I say about The Charlatans? Formed in the West Midlands and adopted by both Northwich and Manchester as their own. 22 UK hit singles and 13 UK Top 40 studio albums. A series of well-documented lows. A blonde Brian Jones haired singer. Soulful bass, rousing Hammond organ and swaggering guitars. Simply, they are a band who have evolved during their long career and have just got better and better creating classic song after classic song to become one of the UKs best loved bands. I take a quick look at a setlist on stage and it’s going to be a journey through their impressively eclectic back catalogue. I bought the band’s debut single from their managements record shop back in the day and have loved them ever since. I’m so looking forward to this.

Gorilla is busy tonight, very busy and filled with 30+ year olds ecstatic to see the band in such a dark and intimate space. Bassist Martin Blunt, guitarist Mark Collins, keyboard player Tony Rodgers and ex verve drummer Pete Salisbury appear on the barely lit atmospheric stage minus front-man Tim to rapturous cheers.

As the opening swirls of Hammond organ and the hypnotic bass of  Forever begin the stage fills with smoke and as the beat gains momentum, the unmistakeable silhouette of front-man Tim Burgess appears in a ¾ length cardigan to further cheers. He stands smiling, stage front and holds his phone aloft to record the crowd before his yearning vocal must begin.  The song finishes to more welcoming cheers and applause as the bass and Hammond of indie-dance classic Weirdo begins to bounce off the walls. It’s a glorious start, the low lights and smoke intensifying the atmosphere with the ever happy and bouncy front man looking even happier than usual.



 Following You’re So Pretty, We’re So Pretty, Tim declares “We’ve never performed this next song live before” reading the lyrics of Sleepy Little Sunshine Boy from his phone. My favourite track of the night, Oh! Vanity, a powerful, Northern Soul foot stomper with its driven bass and Hammond organ is next. Not for the first time tonight I close my eyes, listen, and take everything in. The focus may be on Tim, but he’s just one cog in a well-oiled musical machine. Wow.

‘I’m just taking pictures of you taking pictures of me!’ replies Tim to a voice in the crowd, obviously loving the night as he further jokes “You don’t have to put your hand up to ask questions!”. A voice next to me asks him what his favourite milk is and the singer laughs, looks lost for words and just stares straight into my lens whilst thinking. Not sure, was the answer if you’re wondering.

Things start to get even more cramped and vocal in the audience as we’re treated to mid-1990s classics Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over, Can’t Get Out of Bed and the thunderous indie-soul of One to Another. All sounding as fresh tonight as they did all those years ago. The stage lighting has become much brighter now, but I can’t raise my arms to take a photo and don’t really care to be honest. I’m lost in the moment.



‘It’s good to play that one again,’ comments Tim as he finishes the country tinged The Blind Stagger. It’s been a perfect set so far and the band launch into the stirring North Country Boy with the audience loudly singing along, before 2017s Plastic Machinery and the Fender Rhodes of Jesus Hairdo takes us back to the 1990s once again. 

With the formidable rhythm of Martin’s bass and Tony’s Hammond the band finally launch into Madchester anthem The Only One I Know, somehow the crowd finding another gear. I close my eyes again thinking it’s 1990 as Tim’s yearning vocal of “Everyone has been burned before” is mimicked by the crowd. I’m not sure I’ve heard it better to be honest.

The dazzling riffs and powerful running bass of Love Is the Key is the nights last planned song. It’s infectious funk and falsetto vocals a cross between Brian Augers Inner City Blues and Keep on Trippin by Curtis Mayfield.” Most bands would end on that one…’ announces Tim as they leave the stage to deafening cheers and applause.

Wearing an NHS Charlatans t-shirt, Tim appears for an encore of How High and the sprawling, surging obligatory set closer Sproston Green accompanied by virtually everyone bouncing and singing along. It’s a fitting end to a glorious rehearsal for the bands tour and I leave with the lyrics “I’ll save you; I’ll save you” from North Country Boy in my head. Thank you, NHS staff, and thank you The Charlatans.



Intro (Pink Room)



You’re So Pretty – We’re So Pretty

Sleepy Little Sunshine Boy

Oh! Vanity

Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over

Can’t Get Out of Bed

One to Another

The Blind Stagger

North Country Boy

Different Days

Plastic Machinery

Jesus Hairdo

Trouble Understanding

The Only One I Know

Love Is the Key


How High

Sproston Green