The Charlatans are nothing if not resilient. As their career fast approaches the 30-year mark, they have survived the devastation of drugs, breakdown, and the untimely deaths of two band members. Along the way, they have outlasted Britpop, Madchester and numerous other passing musical phases with which they have often been associated. Out on their umpteenth UK tour – in support of their 13th album Different Days, widely regarded as their best record in years – their durability shows absolutely no sign of abating.
With his trademark bleached Boots’-blonde pudding-bowl haircut, swivelling snake hips and huge beatific smile, singer Tim Burgess is a man who exudes good karma. It is a divine contentment that percolates right through The Charlatans’ music. As the evening draws to a suitably euphoric close, the band strike up “Let The Good Times Be Never Ending”. After all those earlier years of destruction rather than some vaguely forlorn plea the song resonates here as a design for life.
Earlier in the set, The Charlatans had crisscrossed between various points in their recording history, from the early baggy splendour of their first hit single ‘The Only One I Know’ – which appeared on their 1990 long-playing debut Some Friendly – through the proto-funk of ‘Weirdo’ (from its follow-up, the often overlooked Between 10th and 11th) to the more contemporary cuts taken from Different Days and its equally illustrious predecessor Modern Nature.
It is a journey that captures perfectly their quiet sonic evolution over the years. The Charlatans have never been afraid to experiment, embracing nuances of dance, disco, electronic pop, R&B, psychedelia and soul along the way. But these subtle variations in sound weren’t introduced at the expense of the band’s basic formula, one that relies heavily on getting into the groove and just staying there. And tonight we experience this grand fusion of that established Charlatans’ momentum and those gentle textural changes in all of its supreme, dishevelled glory.
With its sub-Stones rumble and relentless rhythm, ‘Not Forgotten’ gets the party going. A seductive ‘Emilie’ plays out in front of some striking imagery from Fellini’s groundbreaking film La Dolce Vite. It all makes for the most evocative realisation of sound and vision. For ‘One To Another’ the packed Leeds’ crowd erupts into a homogenous sea of waving arms. A soulful ‘Spinning Out’ prompts Burgess to playfully suggest that Paul Weller (who collaborated on the song on the new album) is in the house. And a cracking double-encore of ‘There Will Be Chances’ and ‘Sproston Green’ sees The Charlatans disappear into the night on a wave of swirling neo-psychedelia.
Photo: Simon Godley