The Charlatans groove harder at The Astoria

Review by Paul White

Picture by Cathryn Ellis

LET'S get straight on it, shall we? The Charlatans are playing at the Astoria tonight (February 11, 2002) as part of the NME Carling Premiere Awards, exclusive style.

The Charlies have just come back hot on the heels from their States-side tour.

There is a surge of electricity buzzing through the crowd tonight and for good reason. It was last year that the boys played all-out big gigs in front of sell-out crowds. This, of course, was exactly the opposite. A very small venue to see The Charlies playing, really, considering some of their gig history at places like The Royal Albert Hall, Wembley, etc.

Finally, The Charlatans cruise onto the stage that had been vacated earlier by some upcoming bands such as Cooper Temple Clause, looking good and ready to give us a taste of what we have been missing.

Love Is The Key is the first tune of the night. A fine rendition and Burgess's falsetto vocals cannot really be criticised as his confidence in his new vocal range has been assured by his band mates, the record sales, and the fans - so every reason to give it that much more.

The first few songs tonight are from Wonderland. A Man Needs To Be Told and And If I Fall, moved mountains and showed that the ideas and tunes are still coming strong - no drought round these parts, sir, no way!

Burgess seems to have adapted to living State-side and this shows in his performance. His hand gestures to the crowd resemble a sort of chilled existence and you can easily imagine Burgess adding 'rad' and 'bogus' to his vocabulary.

This is not a piss take, you understand. Burgess also seems more 'up for it' and 'crazy happy' where he and his fellow Charlatans are at right now - and why not?

Tim has also seemed to lose some of the early attitude/aggression that he showed when the band first started. Unlike Liam, it seems that Burgess has realised that you don't constantly need to be menacing on stage, but just flow and enjoy it.

The Only One I Know is one of the classics played tonight and still has as much class as back in the day. How High is the set finisher which the crowd bounce along to, nice!

The encore is something a bit special. Sproston Green, a killer track. Martin Blunt's B-line slowly building as Collins's guitar lick bleeds out of the speakers, superb. The hammond organ chops away at this track and even though Tony Rogers has made this his own, it is still played with as much passion and also the ability to karate chop the keyboard as Rob Collins used to do, when he was doing his thing.

I'm sure Rob will remain an angel on the Charlatans' shoulder forever and I'm sure that he would have been proud with his friend's performance tonight. Let's hope the boys tour the UK again soon - solid baby!