The Charlatans have experienced more than their fair share of hardship throughout their career; in 1996, keyboardist Rob Collins was killed in a car crash, and two years ago, beloved drummer Jon Brookes passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. It was in the wake of that tragedy that the band recorded Modern Nature – an inspiriting, inventive record whose main motive was, in the words of frontman Tim Burgess, to be full of “songs that made us happy”.
As such, The Charlatans are now all about positivity, and they convey their collective well-being on stage. Sure, the audience is cluttered with people who were definitely there the first time around, but it doesn’t feel like a mass nostalgia trip; there’s a level of buoyancy that makes the whole thing feel completely fresh and youthful.
It’s not just that haircut; Tim Burgess seems more innovative than ever. Leaving his introverted personality at the stage door, he whips the crowd into a reverie with his signature dance moves soon spurning the crowd to let loose to a repository of indie anthems that’ve beckoned a generation to the floors of indie discos since the ‘90s.
Enjoying the luxury of attracting a hefty enough crowd to completely sell out the Roundhouse, The Charlatans have got The Verve’s Pete Salisbury on drums, as well as a new album to show off. Although slightly hit and miss at times, with “Talking In Tones” proving to be somewhat slack live, the band have an unstoppable spirit, which emits warm, liberated vibes through their classic singles.
The weightier, feel-good tunes of their back catalogue remain a staple; the persistent riff of “One To Another” leaves the crowd jumping in ecstasy, while cult classic “The Only One I Know” produces mass euphoria. Tim is on top form, his clear cut vocals preserving the stretched out pronunciation which leads every one of his songs, particularly during the menacing “You’re So Pretty”.
With a psychedelic visual background and the inclusion of backing singers and a brass section who join in for “Let The Good Times Be Never Ending”, tonight is a clear sign that The Charlatans know exactly where they are in their career right now, and also understand how to develop it. It’s a wonderful case of triumph over tragedy and you only have to listen to the excellently formulated lead single off Modern Nature, “So Oh” for proof – a track that remains true to their roots but offers an innovation that more than rivals anything in current indie. The Charlatans are not only still relevant, breaking through the mould of nostalgic baggy acts, but are also brimming with fresh, exciting ideas for the future.