LIVE REVIEW: The Charlatans – Manchester

The Charlatans

Summer In The City, Castlefield Bowl, Manchester, 4th July 2015

Words: Julia Grantham

Photos: Sakura


photo: sakura

photo: Sakura

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the city, amid passing trains, railway arches and The Manchester Ship Canal, lies a rather unsuspecting gig venue. Playing host to a series of gigs this year as part of Summer in The City concerts, Castlefield Bowl is hidden from the main streets of this bustling city, and yet minutes away from all the action. The 4th of July gig was a gloriously sunny day. All of Manchester were out en mass, drinking, laughing, soaking up the sun, creating a buoyant lively atmosphere and setting the scene for what was to be a phenomenal concert.

Upon walking through the gates and into the warm sunshine, the music was already in full swing. A lively, but laid-back DJ set from Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert from New Order was well under way, and just enough to set the scene before Blossoms appeared on stage. Having recently toured with The Charlatans and The Inspiral Carpets, this Stockport five piece performed a solid set, full of a quiet confidence, and seemed at ease playing in front of large crowd; a far cry from the last time I saw them perform in a tiny pub in Preston. Playing around eight songs so, their style is part Britpop and part psychedelia; catchy and melodic. Highlights were Blow – an atmospheric and punchy track and My favourite Room, which has all the trademarks of a tuneful indie anthem.

Photo: Sakura

Photo: Sakura

Following Blossoms were Welsh favourites Super Furry Animals, who appeared in boiler suits, later dressing up in fur-covered onsies and carrying signs with ‘Applause’ ‘Louder’ and ‘Go Ape Shit’ which injected some humour and a bizarre aesthetic quality to the evening. Attracting a scattering of loyal fans-one of whom had claimed his spot on the barrier to see SFA only- the Cardiff band performed a number of well-known classics including Juxtapozed With U and (Drawing) Rings around The World. Super Furry Animals were the perfect band to proceed The Charlatans. Reminiscent of the 90s, with a fun-loving performance and warming the crowd up nicely before the main act appeared.

Never a band for grand entrances, The Charlatans decided to walk on stage to the Coronation Street theme tune, a humorous nod to their surroundings presumably and acknowledging their affection for Manchester. The opener this time, was Then – a classic single from their debut album Some Friendly an album which the band performed in its entirety just five years ago to celebrate its twentieth anniversary. What followed was a spectacular set of twenty songs including classics such as How High, Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over and Can’t Get Out of Bed.

Photo: Sakura

Photo: Sakura

The Charlatans never fail to attract large crowds, even now, over two decades since the band formed. The Charlatans started work on their latest album Modern Nature a few years ago, an album which they wanted to be uplifting. It was described by the band as ‘Summery’ and perhaps it has taken until now to fully appreciate how spectacular the songs from this album sound on a balmy Summer’s evening in the open air. Particularly So Oh, which simply soared. It was wonderful to look up at the clouds, as the song describes, just as the sun was starting to lower in the sky.

New tracks from the latest album were met with just the same enthusiastic applause from the crowd as classic favourites which span the band’s twenty-five year career. The more recent songs were performed with the addition of Dexy’s Midnight runners’ Jim Paterson on trombone and backing singers Sandra Marvin and Melanie Marshall, which elevated the likes of Trouble Understanding and Come Home Baby to soulful heights.

charlatans summer city 2015

Photo: Sakura

As the band were off stage, I turned to my friend, and we began discussing what songs might proceed Sproston Green– the hit they usually finish with. A few were mentioned, and we decided it could be Oh Vanity. What we didn’t expect, was a one of the most powerful and electric performances of Sproston Green, and that song alone, that we had ever witnessed. It was just fantastic to see, hear and be a part of. Stephen Morris took to the drums alongside Pete Salisbury, Gillian Gilbert accompanied Tony Rogers on keyboard, and backing singers Sandra and Melanie joined in towards the end. The crowd went wild, and I for one, was blown away, not just by the surprise of seeing such a unique performance of the song, but by how much more spectacular it could be. Afterwards, as the band left the stage, you could see them hugging each other; they clearly enjoyed performing the song this way as much as the crowd revelled in this very special rendition of their epic hit.

It’s hard to think of a gig to beat this one. I have been privileged to see this band many times, but this is, and will always be, one to remember.

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