The Charlatans at Brixton Academy
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Tim Burgess became something of a patron saint of indie bands and fans – with his Twitter listening parties providing a much-needed distraction from lockdown. He also found time to work on solo projects but is now back with the band that made his name, The Charlatans, who were truly on form when they played the Brixton Academy on Friday.
The term ageless is most often used for plasticised Hollywood stars but is perhaps best applied to Burgess, with his mop of blonde hair that bounces on stage to the psychedelia of Forever. From there, it’s a hit-heavy opening act to the show – and it is an opening act, as he and bandmates Mark Collins, bassist Martin Blunt and keyboardist Tony Rogers will get through more than 20 songs in total.
There’s an early focus on their 90s heyday; lesser (but no less fun) hits like Weirdo are blended with classics like You’re So Pretty…We’re So Pretty, Just When You’re Thinking Over and One to Another. For an audience who has perhaps aged less gracefully than the group’s frontman, each provides a thrilling window into lost youth.
Ordinarily, a turn towards newer material during a classic band’s greatest hits gig – as The Charlatans make in the middle section – would be a disappointment, or a cue to head to the bar. But here it kind of works: songs like Different Days and Plastic Machinery may not have the same cachet in the group’s songbook as their earlier hits, but they mix in well with them and provide something of an interlude that means the occasion is not just about looking back, but a band still interested in making music – and telling stories, so to speak.
To finish, though, it’s of course back to the 90s, as a Charlatans gig wouldn’t be complete without their first hit, The Only One I Know from way back in 1990, a song that has always acted as something of a calling card. It’s accompanied by the anthemic North Country Boy and raucous How High, before an encore that closes another early classic – the Madchester-influenced Sproston Green.
Burgess and The Charlatans are some of 90s-indie’s great survivors. Unlike many of their contemporaries who called it a day only to reemerge in recent years on the nostalgia circuit, they and Burgess have kept making and loving music – and the result is a varied set that feels fresh even though it’s anchored around hits older than the youngest fans in attendance. The band prove a gig is more fun than even the best listening party.
For further information and future events visit The Charlatans’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Sproston Green here: