WORDS AND IMAGES PAUL EVANS
“It’s not just been a trip down memory lane tonight. It has been a reaffirmation of The Charlatans’ impact on the fabric of British music.”
Glasgow Barrowland, with its celebrated history and iconic neon sign has played host to countless musical legends over the years. On this cold Saturday evening, the esteemed venue is about to bear witness once again to the enduring charm and musical prowess of one of the most enduring bands in the British music scene, The Charlatans. Before delving into tonight’s musical journey, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significance of the venue itself. Glasgow Barrowland, with its sprung dance floor and distinctive neon sign has been a cultural cornerstone for music lovers since its opening in 1934. The venue has seen the rise of numerous artists and witnessed the evolution of various musical genres within this time and it’d be easier to say who hasn’t played here than who has. It’s the perfect canvas to encapsulate the raw essence of live performances, there’s just “something” magical about it. Somehow it just seems to hold the atmosphere of its past gigs in the air and the first time I was here it literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I entered. It’s been a mammoth 240-mile drive from my hometown of Northwich, to get here, but tonight is an opportunity far too good to turn down.
What can you say about The Charlatans, with a career spanning over three decades, they’ve weathered the ever-changing landscape of the music industry. Dragged into the burgeoning Madchester scene when they formed in 1989, they’ve navigated the shifting tides of musical trends, consistently delivering a unique blend of differing musical styles and timeless melodies. Their longevity is a testament to their ability to musically evolve without losing the essence that has made them a staple in the hearts of fans worldwide. There’s an eclectic mix of fans packed in for the first of two sold-out nights here ranging from those who have followed The Charlatans since their inception to newer fans. I spot original Charlatan fans and fellow Northwichian’s Frank, Cheddar and Ronnie in the crowd and there’s a 12- or 13-year boy pressed right up against the barrier.
The lights dim and as the crowd erupts into cheers, the band take the stage. Tim the charismatic frontman filming, his presence commanding our attention from the first note. “With No Shoes” sets a tone for the night, echoing nostalgia and the timeless quality of their music. Tim stands centre stage holding the microphone or raising his arms directing the crowd into movement through the track from 1997s “Tellin’ Stories”. The sprung dance floor, with its unique bounce, becomes a metaphor for the enduring spirit of The Charlatans and their ability to keep crowds moving, both physically and emotionally which doesn’t relent through the whole night. The transition from “With No Shoes” to the infectious “Can’t Get Out of Bed” is seamless and it becomes immediately apparent that The Charlatans are not merely performing a setlist but orchestrating a journey through their extensive discography.
“Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over” evokes the raw energy and soulful ambiance that characterized the Britpop era. The crowd, are now even more immersed in the sonic journey, swaying and singing along with the band, their connection deepening with each passing minute. Mark Collins’ distinctive guitar riffs, Martin Blunt’s pulsating bass, Tony Rogers’ atmospheric keyboards and the solid rhythm foundation provided by Pete Salisbury collectively paint a sonic landscape that captivates. The band really do look like they’re enjoying this too as Burgess, with his magnetic stage presence, engages with the crowd with effortless charm.
“Toothache” provides a comprehensive experience for fans and illustrates the ability to remain relevant while staying true to your roots. “And If I Fall” and “Jesus Hairdo” provide moments of introspection showcasing emotive vocal delivery. The latter injecting a dose of swagger into the set, eliciting cheers of recognition from fans who had undoubtedly journeyed through the Britpop era. “Then” serves as a transition to the magnetic “North Country Boy”, the crowd, fully immersed in the nostalgia of the ’90s, singing along to every word, their voices merging with Burgess’s in a harmonious chorus that echoes through the hallowed halls of Barrowland. “Weirdo” and “Just Lookin'” showcase versatility, seamlessly switching between psychedelic and alternative influences. The band’s ability to navigate diverse musical landscapes without losing their distinctive identity is on full display, leaving me in awe of their creative range.
The unmistakable chords of “The Only One I Know” mark a pinnacle in the set, triggering a collective surge of energy within the venue. The timeless groove of the song, arguably The Charlatans’ most recognizable hit, transforms Barrowland into a euphoric dancefloor. The track, with its distinctive bass, Hammond organ and infectious melody, transporting the crowd back to a time when The Charlatans were defining the sound of a generation. As the main set concludes, the crowd, unwilling to let the magic fade, erupt into applause that reverberates through this glorious venue.
The encore begins with the stunning “Oh! Vanity” accompanied by Ruby Darbyshire on bagpipes . The band’s chemistry is evident throughout the evening, but reaches its climax during the perennial grand finale of “Sproston Green” an epic track that allows each member to showcase their mastery. Collins’ guitar soars, Blunt’s bass rumbles, Rogers’ keyboards adds an ethereal layer and Salisbury’s drumming provides the rhythmic backbone. The songs extended instrumental outro serving as a sonic crescendo, a fitting conclusion to a night of musical brilliance.
As fans disperse into the night, the echoes of the performance linger in the air. The enduring resonance of classics like “The Only One I Know” and the modern allure of tracks like “Let the Good Times Be Never Ending” affirm The Charlatans’ status as a band that transcends the boundaries of time and genre. It’s not just been a trip down memory lane tonight. It has been a reaffirmation of The Charlatans’ impact on the fabric of British music. In a world where musical trends come and go; The Charlatans stand as a beacon of consistency and creativity. Their ability to navigate the ever-changing currents of the music industry while remaining true to their artistic vision is a rarity. Let the good times be never ending. Wow.
With No Shoes
Can’t Get Out of Bed
Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over
One to Another
Come Home Baby
And If I Fall
North Country Boy
Let the Good Times Be Never Ending
The Only One I Know
I Don’t Want to See the Sights
FOLLOW THE CHARLATANS
I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)