Part of the Liverpool International Music Festival 2013.
When one considers The Charlatans, there is always a feeling of positivity in their music – a feeling of familiarity that nods affectionately towards the ‘baggy’ scene of the early 1990s. Perhaps most charmingly of all, they have managed to maintain a gentle influence on British indie music over the years, providing alternative anthems to the big musical statements made by the likes of Oasis and The Stone Roses. With this in mind, The Charlatans are a pleasure to see live because there is an element of intimacy to their gigs – they aren’t just a few matchstick figures on some distant main stage.
For their last gig of the year, the majestic setting of St. George’s Hall certainly facilitated all these sentiments, as well as providing ample space for the vast array of parka clad fans to jump around passionately, with their well-groomed mod coiffed haircuts – a scene somewhat reminiscent of Heaton Park last summer.
They kick started proceedings with the dreamy ‘Forever’, which set a good level for them to glide into the rest of the set and build up the atmosphere. Soon, the tinkling piano overtones met by a shuffling drum beat signified ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’, a reflective song and also one that, perhaps inevitably, turned one’s thoughts to Jon Brookes to whom this gig was dedicated.
Staying, for a moment, in their late 1990s period they floated effortlessly through ‘North Country Boy’ – a song that implores its subject and the listener to question “what are you sad about?” and without a doubt added texture to the upbeat aesthetic of the evening.
This was interjected by ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’ which swirled with a much gloomier energy but did bring to the set a sharper focus and more bite. From there, they were able to break into some of their older, more ‘madchester’ numbers including ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘One To Another’, not to mention ‘Toothache’ which always drips with plenty of acerbic, Hammond organ induced attitude.
However, the set was once again returned to a more reflective state as ‘This is the End’ added a weighty pathos and poignancy, perhaps as a way to begin directing the evening’s mood to their sadly missed drummer, Jon Brookes.
The cool edged ‘Sproston Green’ seemed a brilliant way to end because it brought the focus back to the beginning of their career and seemed a fitting tribute. In many ways, The Charlatans are a band that could be deemed one of the great survivors of British indie rock because they have confirmed and re-confirmed their durability as a band and a creative force over the years. They have been touched by tragedy and death at points but look as strong and confident in their own abilities now as they did when they first swaggered onto the scene in 1990.
By Liam Barker