Impossible to ignore... even in support

Review by Jack Foley

The Charlatans, Finsbury Park - Saturday, July 6, 2002

THERE was a point, midway through The Charlatans support set, when Tim Burgess stopped, looked at the crowd, and declared 'it's not easy being up here, supporting Oasis'. The guy need not have worried, for 'The Charlies' (as they are affectionately termed by some fans), blew the Gallagher brothers away on Saturday.

This was the second time I have seen Oasis undermined by their support (the first time was by Verve, at Earl's Court), so Burgess and co can take heart from the fact that they provided the day's main event.

Showcasing a setlist comprised of their greatest hits mixed with tracks from the latest album, Wonderland, The Charlatans provided the perfect example of how to play for the masses - interacting with the crowd on a regular basis, playing up their favourites, introducing musical loops and variations into their music and displaying why, after so long, they are still so highly regarded.

Gary Crowley was perfectly justified when he introduced the band as 'giving new meaning to the term, support act'.

Opening up with a blistering version of the single, Love Is The Key, The Charlatans then proceeded to blast out a whole host of classics, from Weirdo and Tellin' Stories, right through to A Man Needs To Be Told and How High. And while they may only have been support, the reaction from the crowd - which contained many Charlatans T-shirts - was close to euphoric.

People sang along, they danced (and they tossed more bottles), but you could watch comfortably, sing-along without drowning out the music or the vocals and, generally, have a good time - albeit aware of the next alcohol-laden soaking from another flying cup or bottle.

With Wonderland, The Charlatans achieved what Oasis have so far failed to do - experimented without ever losing sight of their musical roots. Little wonder, then, that the album (one of last year's finest) was critically-acclaimed. Shame, though, that it failed to sell as many copies as had been hoped.

Ask Burgess the reason for this, though, and he will blame the record company. He maintains the wrong singles were taken from it and, upon introducing You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty, delivered a perfect sideways swipe at their expense. "The track was supposed to have been a single, but never got released. But that's record companies for you," he said.

Musically, the band is so solid, while vocally (since the new album) they are also incredibly diverse. Burgess seems to have conquered the vocal demands of Wonderland and is very assured in delivering the high tones needed. Even when they faltered (slightly!), however, he was rescued by his colleagues, with the drum 'n' bass finale of A Man Needs To Be Told given a rousing display by drummer Jon Brookes.

Other favourites included Judas, North Country Boy, Just Lookin' and One To Another, while the harmonica-led Impossible - one the band's finest moments - was, quite simply, sublime. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, the band delivered a blistering version of their favourite concert-closer, Sproston Green - a track which never fails to send the crowd delirious. The trick was repeated here, to quite memorable effect.

They may only have been on-stage for just over an hour, but in those 60-plus minutes, The Charlatans delivered the kind of set which defines greatness. Make sure you catch them when they next tour, or better yet, get hold of a copy of the forthcoming live album, Live It Like You Love It. You are sure to love it.

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB - Spreading their love to the masses

ONE of the emerging bands of the moment displayed why they are so highly rated (and tipped) at Finsbury on Saturday. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rocked and look destined for great things.

Guitar-driven, aggressive and very, very loud, the band (which takes its name from the Marlon Brando classic, The Wild One), hail from San Francisco and go about their business with a relaxed confidence reserved for only the biggest names.

The size of the event did not seem to phase them and they provided the perfect warm-up to the evening's main two events, even having the confidence to play their greatest hits early, before closing with tracks from the album.

It was not that much of a susprise to hear Spread Your Love early, as they wanted to get the crowd on-side early, yet to hear Love Burns (their biggest and best single) straight afterwards was a surprise, and evidence of a band which clearly has confidence in its own material.

Love Burns was the track of the set-list, a really good anthem, yet there was more to suggest that this is a band worth watching in future. On the strength of this showing, BRMC's self-titled debut album is well worth seeking out.

RELATED STORIES: Click here for a review of the Oasis concert...
Click here for a review of Wonderland...

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