Whilst not specifically aligned with Buddhism (although Tim Burgess is an advocate of transcendental mediation), the seminal UK West Midlands/Mancunian band The Charlatans would seemingly know a fair bit about reincarnation. Through sadly losing their keyboardist Rob Collins 20 years ago in a car crash and their drummer Jon Brookes in 2013 to brain cancer the group are a living reminder of how tragedy can inspire things of great beauty. Currently, The Charlatans’ great beauty is their early 2015 release of Modern Nature, an album, which added to their rich catalogue of fantastic indie pop/rock/dance anthems.
After 13 months since Modern Nature’s release, it was now Adelaide’s turn to appreciate this beauty. And whilst the band (and 99% of the audience) undoubtedly have aged in the 26 years since ‘The Only One I Know’ was first played in indie clubs in Northern England, the souls and spirits of both band and audience remain.
On this humid, post Mad March evening, The Gov was near capacity with lads and ladettes adorning Fred Perry, Lacoste, Adidas trainers, Modesque haircuts and English football shirts. The majority of The Charlatans suitably wore appropriate middle aged post-modern mod wear. However, lead singer Tim Burgess bounded on stage resplendent with not only his now trademark shock of bleached blonde bowl cut hair but also wearing a circa 1989 ‘Australia’ tourist-wear sweat shirt. I liked this semi-satirical juxtaposition of culture.
The band gently began their set with the brooding Modern Nature opener, ‘Talking in Tones’ which then segued perfectly into a range of some of their biggest hits like ‘Weirdo’ and ‘North Country Boy’. The momentum continued with the throbbing, almost krautrock/new rave referencing ‘Oh Vanity!’ and ‘Bad Days’ from their little known 2008 LP. This path then led to arguably their best track this century, last year’s ‘So Oh’, an emotionally rousing mid-tempo track which is an obvious nod (and lament) to the happy memories of loved ones past and present.
Although yours truly (and my dear friend Chris) found all this thoroughly enjoyable, there was an overriding sense that the majority of the crowd only wanted the classic 1990s Charlatans. Everyone seemed so flat, although granted it was a Tuesday night post-Mad March Long Weekend in Adelaide. And I could hardly be sanctimonious considering I was combating my man-flu throughout the gig, inhaling Vicks and devouring Soothers and Fisherman’s Friends.
So although the excellent ‘Let the Good Times….’ From Modern Nature did its Hammond organ thrashing, funky best to excite, it wasn’t until ‘One to Another’ from 1997’s Tellin’ Stories came storming in that the crowd properly came to life. It’s still my favourite Charlatans tune, all heavy piano and crashing drums courtesy of The Verve’s drummer, Pete Salisbury. It was like heavy metal new-age Northern Soul. And although it wasn’t sinus blasting, for a brief moment I didn’t so sick, or even so old.
A couple of songs later even the most lethargic Gen Xers in attendance we able to raise voices and emotions for the band’s signature, ‘The Only One I Know’ – is this the best song The Stone Roses never released?
After an encore of ‘Then’ and the traditional closer, the ‘Baba O Riley’ sounding ‘Sproston Green’ it was as if the crowd had finally awakened only to have to depart. Tim and the band generously thanked everyone, looked satisfied and left a few hundred pre-middle aged people feeling not quite so old and maybe just a little slightly reborn.
Reviewed by Dan Crane