The Line Of Best Fit Radio

Monday, December 11, 2006

Review: The Charlatans - Brixton Academy, London. 8th December 2006.

Its typical of The Charlatans to end the year on top of their game. Its what they've spent their entire career doing. Damning anyone and everyone who has ever stood in their way. They're survivors after all.
2006 has been a funny old year for the band. Appearing in the first half of the year with the poorly recieved 9th studio album Simpatico, its Reggae and Dub influences confused both fans and critics alike. But credit to them, they tried something new and with most experiments sometimes they work sometimes they don't. But they've always had spirit and when the new musical directions work they really work; take 2001's Wonderland for example - a pure slice of glorious Californian soul or the Dylanesque country of Us & Us Only for examples of their bloody mindedness and talent.

Who would have thought they would be ending this year in such a celebrated way? November saw the band release their second retrospective of their career, Forever contained a selection of the bands favourite and most successful singles to date and with this came a full UK tour. What a tour its been too - playing all their favourite haunts its clear the band have been enjoying it as much as their ever loyal fans. Just listen to the daily podcasts to hear Burgess and co gushing after every show. Brixton Academy has always been an important venue for the band, some legendary shows have taken place here, most recently from the 2004 show where the bands only live DVD was filmed.

As LCD Soundsystems' Disco Infiltrator booms from the PA and the curtain falls to reveal a huge Charlatans logo backdrop the atmosphere becomes purely electric and its not long until the band appear and kick in with career high Forever. Tim Burgess looking revitalised after kicking drink and drugs earlier this year, he skulks the stage in the way that only Tim Burgess can, its certainly clear he and the rest of the guys are on a mission, yet the audience didn't react in such the manic way that I was expecting and it wasn't until Cant Get Out Of Bed until the atmosphere clicked into place and the band shifted it up a notch. Love Is The Key blew the roof off, one of the many highlights of the evening Up At The Lake sounded fresher than ever and The Only One I Know, as it always does, sent the audience into a complete frenzy.

A Man Needs To Be Told calms things down slightly with Burgess introducing it as his "War Song" its plods along quite nicely but I cant help but feel they should have canned it for a more lesser heard live track. With no studio album to tour and a classic song cannon, surely this is the time to do it? But apart from the encore the set is all pretty safe, or maybe its just what the crowd want to hear. This is only a very minor complaint though, The Charlatans are still one of the only bands that can make me feel the way they do live. Everytime i've ever had the opportunity to see them there has always been a oneness between band and audience, a Charlatans army if you like. They are a band of the people, and not in a yobbish Kasabian way either. You can live your life through this band and you can tell from the audience that many people do. Every member of the crowd I look at are singing the words right back at TIm with such conviction you'd think they were the songs authors.

A sterling rendition of How High concludes and the band leave the stage. What follows is an encore that should blow the roof off Brixton once and for all but, never really takes off. Kicking off with NYC from Simpatico Tim announces that he's just figured out "We've got another half an hour left yet" they break into a classic rendition of debut single Indian Rope with Tony Rogers ressurecting the ghost of Rob Collins in a hammond solo that completely blows my mind. I cant help but think that the majority of the audience haven't even heard the song before though. Up next comes Then which is a late addition to the set and like Indian Rope just doesn't get the audience reaction i'd expect. A lackluster run through of Impossible follows and its not until classic set closer Sproston Green that the encore finally picks up pace. The crowd literally go mental as the self styled King of the Mods Martin Blunt kicks into the pulsating bass line and the rest of the band follow. Tim Burgess still skulking around zapping the audience with his imaginary gun. At this point i've nearly lost not only my glasses but my jeans and my right shoe. Tim leaves the stage and the guys wrap things up in their own time - Jon Brookes pounding the drums, as always as if his life depended on it. Mark Collins and Martin Blunt knowingly cool as fuck and Tony Rogers tearing his Hammond to pieces. A completely exhilarating 2 hour set is over, and as always the band won hands down. They always do.

The Charlatans - Sproston Green

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