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LIVE REPORT: The Charlatans
Julian Marszalek , March 19th, 2015 17:42

Julian Marszalek reports on The Charlatans sold out Roundhouse show, following the release of their twelfth album Modern Nature earlier this year.

Photo by Ken Iwasa

It's tempting to write about The Charlatans in nothing less than heroic and hyperbolic tones. This, after all, is the band that has suffered adversity more than most, be it the tragic deaths of two members, financial burdens in the wake of being the first British band to give an album away for free, and singer Tim Burgess' ongoing sartorial challenges which tonight combine the dubious charms of Afflecks Palace with TK Maxx. Yet be that as it may, The Charlatans' return to the capital in light of their 12th album, Modern Nature, the band's best album in many a moon, is nothing less than a triumph, not least that this is a Monday night in front of a London crowd that takes some warming up.

Indeed, given the band's longevity and a survival instinct that has seen them outlive many of their contemporaries who have long since jumped on the reunion bandwagon, the selections of new material in this epic two-hour, 23 song set fit as comfortably among long established favourites as a velvet glove. Rare is the band that, this long into their career, actually makes you look forward to what they have to offer from the here and now. So it is that the languid funk of 'Talking In Tones' makes an early appearance following absorbing opener 'Forever' and an almost ridiculously groovy reading of 'Weirdo' that sees Tony Rogers on devastating form at the keyboards. But 'Talking In Tones' feels absolutely right as the band sets out its stall to declare that this isn't to be just a retread of former glories; this is a statement of intent that they're far from over. The fact that the song is welcomed like a new friend bears testament to this.

At the centre of it all is bassist and founding member Martin Blunt. An under-rated musician, Blunt's grooves are the glue that holds this all together though much credit is due to Verve drummer Pete Salisbury who, taking the place of the late Jon Brookes, locks in with his rhythmic cohort to propel the band with a genuine sense of urgency. Their playing on 'Let The Good Times Be Never Ending' is a thing of fearsome wonder as, augmented by a pair of backing singers and two-man horn section, Tony Rogers is freed up to do his magnificent do on the Hammond. Elsewhere, Mark Collins' judicious guitar licks flourish, no more so than on 'The Only One I Know' which by this time has the previously staid audience turning into full on weekend mode.

When not taking snaps of the audience, Tim Burgess moves throughout, his hips swinging with the music and for much of the set he exhorts the audience with all the enthusiasm of a singer just starting out. Little wonder, then, that he frequently punches the air, or holds his arms aloft as if he's just gone 12 rounds to secure that crucial championship bout.

As 'Sproston Green' comes to a thunderous climax, the audience left reeling with delirium, it becomes apparent that The Charlatans are far from over. It's the new material that really lingers – just witness the glorious 'Emilie' and 'Come Home Baby' for evidence – and with it the realisation that The Charlatans are about start another chapter of a story that is a clearly far from over.

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