If you asked the average music fan what Fatboy Slim, JLS, Rick Astley, Manic Street Preachers and Liam Gallagher have in common, it’s unlikely that their answer would be that they’ve all played free concerts for NHS staff! Tonight, it’s the turn of local Northwest indie legends, The Charlatans, to be added to the list. Whilst not being a “Manchester” band in the strictest sense, Salford born Tim Burgess is much loved in these parts and his involvement with Tokyo Industries, acquiring and saving this venue in 2020, will cement that status forever. The weekly “Clap for Carers” evenings were sincere at first but developed into a hollow platitude by the end. This acknowledgement is a far more tangible thank you.
With a capacity of just over 500 at Manchester’s Gorilla tonight’s showcase is the perfect opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and dust down some tunes, before heading out on their delayed 30th Anniversary tour later this month, ending just a few days before Christmas. With a back catalogue spanning 31 years and 13 studio albums, there is certainly a rich seam to mine and the setlist appears to have been chosen to reflect this, with representation from 10 of those LPs.
Early start, the boys bounce onto stage, minus Tim, at 8.15pm (well these people have vital work in the morning!) and receive a veritable heroes welcome, as they amble through Intro (Pink Room). Before the gig I spoke to numerous people, for whom this was their first gig in nearly 2 years. That pent up excitement certainly raised the temperature by a few degrees more, in what is always one of Manchester’s sweatiest venues!
The peroxide mop-top bounds onto stage and straight into Forever and we’re off and running! The smile on Tim’s face is massive as the song ends, a quick thanks to the NHS and the staccato keyboard opening to Weirdo gets the heads and feet moving of everyone around me. Never the easiest venue to shoot the band, but I stand my ground for a couple more tunes, before retiring to the back for a rest. Tim is obviously feeling the heat and discards the smart ¾ length coat, to reveal a simple baggy plain white t-shirt. No lockdown timber on this guy. Throughout the gig, Tim’s mobile phone is glued to his right hand, like a surly 15-year-old as he snaps the audience in front of him. This is clearly a lot of fun for him and not just a PR stunt. The band are tight, though I suspect it wouldn’t have mattered a bit if they weren’t tonight. There is even a small piece of history to share, with the first ever live rendition of Sleepy Little Sunshine Boy, a song written a long time ago, now reworked for a future release. With a setlist also including Just When You’re Thinking Things Over, Can’t Get Out of Bed, One To Another, Jesus Hairdo, The Only One I Know it’s hard to pick a standout but North Country Boy is certainly the loudest crowd singalong of a great night.
Quick turnaround for a two-song encore with How High and Sproston Green and it’s all over
It is 30 years since I first saw The Charlatans and nearly 10 years since my last at Manchester Apollo. This is a band who deserved the commercial success of the Gallagher brothers and leave a far greater legacy. If there’s still tickets for sale at a venue near you, I suggest you clear your diaries and grab them while you can. I feel privileged to have been a part of this tonight, in an intimate setting.
Thanks to Thom at Sonic PR for organising.