Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Charlatans @ Manchester Apollo

The Charlatans: Manchester Apollo
Gig 30: 1 June 2012 

Going to watch the Charlatans on their home turf in Manchester, playing their Telling Stories album in its entirety, what better way to start the Jubilee weekend. Better still, this was coming on top of a long, long week and I was incredibly ready to unwind, and best still I got the opportunity to leave early and shoot up the M6. Sadly this being Friday afternoon before the Jubilee all of the travel reporters seemed a little to gleeful in telling me about the great British Getaway weekend and the delays that started at junction 8 (mine) and lasted to junction 19, ironically the junction I would be leaving the M6 on.

Still I was on holiday and heading north, nothing would dampen my mood, changing into jeans at the service station and I was totally relaxed, a short detour to see the Salford Lads Club site (see this post) and I arrived at the Apollo in Manchester for a debut at the venue. It's a venue I had read about regularly over the years in the NME and Melody Maker and the Art Deco outside made it look a quality venue compared to some of the sheds on the circuit currently.

I had read on the website that it was advisable to park in the secure parking by the venue so when the was a big car park next to the venue with official blokes waving shouting park here I was a bit disappointed to find this was a dearer unofficial one, cheeky chaps, which on leaving the venue I was totally blocked in on all sides, note to self.

Wandering in early to the gig, the venue was impressive, I was downstairs in what is evidently built to be a Cinema and so the stalls are on a massive slope, which means that everyone gets a decent view. Even when Andre the Giant decided to dance in front of me the the view was fine, my only complaint being caught in the grollies by his flailing dancing arm. So settling in at the back waiting with a beer I reflected how much better the New Order gig (see here) would have been in this venue compared to the Ballroom.

Promptly at 8 the support band, Deadbeat Echoes, came on and kicked off with confident drums, and is pretty good, the second song with a catchy woo hoo refrain sounding like the tune from Kill Bill, and again pretty memorable, in fact this is the theme for the performance, real hooks and catches in each song, impressive for such a debut band, such as the 'Twang Twang err, Twang Twang oooh song', probably not the best description but you had to be there. I suppose the swagger of the band is best summed up by the drummer, particularly impressive I thought with his drum stick twirling throughout, nice touch. Sadly the slab of 7inch vinyl purchased outside didn't really live up to the swagger.

Another half hour and on walked the Charlatans, and they were definitively coming home, they really looked at home. Tim front and centre, twirling his supremely dodgy blond raggedy bowl cut left and right, Mark Collins just standing coolly on his left, keyboards by Tony Rogers driving things forward and Jon Brookes behind the Drums. This was impressive to see as the last time I had seen the Charlies in Brum Jon was absent due to his Brain Tumor, returning to the kit for the encore of Sproston Green for his first appearance after successfully battling back from the affliction.

It's shocking that it's 15 years since telling stories, bang at the end of britpop and a great album that re-established my love of the Charlatans following my brief dalliance with 'the only one I know'. It was an important album for me, and the opening strains of 'with no shoes' zoomed me back to the days of Mark and Lard on the Radio 1 breakfast show. North Country Boy, Telling Stories, a B side, One to Another (resplendent with crowd whistles) and everyone was enjoying the party, I was slightly distracted by Andre stood in front of me dancing, as he danced exactly the same way as my brother in law, now dubbed Uncle Small by my kids, perhaps that is the best way for tall people to dance, just less swinging arms in a confined space please.

A recurring bonus for the gig was leaning against the bar at the back of the gig, like an old fashioned leaning post at the footie in the days of terraces. I got people walk up in the dark and try to push past, only to find their way blocked, not particularly amusing, that only happened when they saw the bar, ducked down to go under and bumped into the black paneling that was below the bar and slunk off sheepishly, amusing far more because most of them were people out in their Manc trendy finery and trying so hard to look cool.

A few more album tracks and B sides later, and the air had subsided a bit, only to erupt again with How High, a blistering song, with the crowd in full voice, after this out came the mouth organ and they we gone, with the crowd baying for more.

The band returned for getting on for an hour of the greatest hits, spanning the whole of their career, all stood up very well, and this was where Tim Burgess came into his own, whether it be the arms outstretched in white Tshirt messianic poses for Forever, or the failed golf swing dancing on Wierdo, Tim is a perfect front man, very at home with the adoration.

Another reason that the Charlatans hold a special place for me is the Keyboards, I can't think of another band I have seen that so closely pulls on the legacy of the Stax sound, this really shone through in 'Oh Vanity'  which owes more than just a nod to the Memphis sounds.

What better way to finish than The Only One I Know, being played true to the original which for a long time was an omission from the set list and then back as a re-imagined version, and then finishing on the obligatory Sproston Green.

My only criticism from the night, Tim should definitely work on his signature in the signed book....... And nearly getting run over when crossing a round (which would have put a dampener on the evening). Back down the M6 and I was in a great frame of mind to celebrate the damp jubilee weekend.

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