The Charlatans @ The Gov Tuesday 28 August 2018
Review by Jason Leigh
Potentially not used to a larger stage although more than likely crowded by the main act’s equipment set up, the members of support act Planet play in close proximity to each other on stage. Singer Matty Took has a vocal similar the La’s Lee Mavers or more recently Jake Bugg begging the question is it the vocal or the music that places their style in the bracket of melodic Britpop. Either way their set complements and is a suitable introduction for the main act to follow.
While it would not be an entirely accurate disclaimer to state that the only song I know is The Only One I Know (I also know Weirdo, played here tonight), I must confess to a certain unfamiliarity with most of the set which has remained mostly static on this tour save for slight alterations made each night (in Adelaide a couple of songs were played to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the release of their eponymous fourth album). Most of the audience tonight would have known them in their heyday but their output has far from waned in the ensuing years as demonstrated by the choice of material performed showing that the Charlatans are certainly an ongoing concern.
Wearing an (ironic?) Friends shirt, singer Tim Burgess joins his bandmates Mark Collins, Martin Blunt and Tony Rogers with Peter Salisbury (ex-The Verve) on drums and they commence their set with the title song from their latest release, the Totally Eclipsing EP. A couple of songs later, by the end of the funky Rolling Stones-esque One to Another, Tim’s initially weedy vocals had gradually improved. Not the most technically proficient singer, he’s lost in the moment, dad-dancing, eyes closed beneath his not insignificant fringe. His iconic appearance and mushroom bowl haircut was a reminder of the historic early Britpop baggy era even to the extent that he had to occasionally pull up his jeans which were falling off his insubstantial frame. Tim notes that is has been two years since they last played here prior to introducing Not Forgotten as a song not written then and that we would not have heard live before. In fact, half the set is comprised of songs from releases in the last three years meaning that these were new live outings for an Adelaide audience.
During the disco-soul of So Oh, Tim invites the audience to sing along and takes his default pose of arms outstretched Jesus-like. Following this, he announces, “It’s one of our album’s birthdays today so we’re going to play some songs off that. Whatever the set list says, it’s a lie” prior to Here Comes a Soul Saver and Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over from 1995’s The Charlatans. In the Tall Grass is a return to the more contemporary material but it sounds like a medieval folksong updated and funkified then there’s an extended performance of the appropriately titled Let The Good Times Be Never Ending which is rapturously well received. The chiming and clanging Different Days while not entirely a departure differs slightly from the other material with muted clock chime samples, seguing into the epic rousing Plastic Machinery during which the until now stone-faced bassist Martin Blunt comes to life and shows he’s enjoying himself. Tim exclaims “Thanks a lot” and then it’s a dip into the past with the should’ve been an instrumental danger of the ultra funky Weirdo, Tony Rogers’ organ playing coming to the fore. Talking In Tones is an exercise in moodiness before North Country Boy piques the audience in preparation for the favourable anticipated The Only One I Know which I note concludes with a lyrical coda lifted from an obscure Byrds song Everybody Has Been Burned.
Following Come Home Baby there’s an intermission before a three song encore commencing with Then, another diversion from the set list and this is the only time that the band truly acknowledge their beginnings and lapse in being a retro act. Tim introduces the band and then states, “We’re the Charlatans. You’re Adelaide. I’ve got hair in my mouth”, before Over Rising and the set closes with Sproston Green, the band appropriately green-lit as the song starts like an intro to the Doors The End. Tim takes a moment to shake hands with those down front before leaving the stage, the audience far from disappointed as the rest of the band plays the song out instrumentally to end the night. This was a thoroughly entertaining experience in opposition to what their name would lead us to believe (a charlatan is defined as a person who falsely claims to have an ability or skill in order to obtain money or fame).