Live Review: The Charlatans – Northwich

The Charlatans

Northwich Memorial Court, 14th May 2018

The Charlatans have put together a festival and it’s a pretty decent offering, especially as they are the only headline – every day, well almost every day, for a week. The festival North by Northwich, features an exhibition, DJ sets, after parties, a mini-conference with Sound City, and also free shows featuring new and emerging talent as well as their own headline shows. It’s enough to make you want to take the week off work!

I was lucky enough to be sent along to review their opening night and I arrived, head in the game: work. I left a bleary-eyed tear-stained fan. Rule 1 of writing about music – never forget, first and foremost you are a music fan. And this music fan has been in love with The Charlatans for more than half of my life, try 22 years, and 97 shows. Head in the game: work, lasted all of 3 songs, and that’s only because I was in the photo pit trying to fight the lights and smoke to get that “one picture” to use with these here words. Once I spotted my Charla-family (as we so lovingly call ourselves) at the barrier it was game over for work mode.

I managed to squeeze myself in at the barrier – something I would never do when in work mode, but you know what, who cares. I was there to work but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t also enjoy. It’s one of the perks of doing something you love and rarely get paid for!

Opening the set with live favourite Forever, the crowd were treated to one of the band’s longest songs. With it’s driving bass lines the band showed they were there, on a school night, and they meant business as though it was a Saturday night. Not a bad idea to have opened the bar at 7, herd in the crowd and go on stage at 9.

As the set moved along, I learned that the idea of the many different nights was in part so that the band could put out a different set list across the board. Genius, I thought, and then straight away regretted having given up my tickets for Thursday and Friday so that I could go to The Great Escape.

The crowd was mixed, in age, drunkenness, and willingness to launch themselves around but I was pleased to see a throng of people really getting into it. Being able to take a breather when the band pulled out a slowly, with Bird. 

So why the tear-stained face, you might still be asking? Well, I have a song, I claimed it as mine a long time ago and people know me by it. Another Rider Up In Flames – even when Tim announced it was a song from Up To Our hips, I automatically dismissed the idea that it would be that, seeing that they haven’t played it for 8 years. Even when the opening bar was played, I was still in denial then I just let go. I jumped, I yelled I danced, I sang and I didn’t care who saw. It didn’t make me cry though. No, what made me cry, was the song to which I have lyrics tattooed on my person. Bullet Comes. I once started a campaign on Facebook many many MANY years ago to get them to play it. I spent 13 years trying to get them to play it and then there it was. LIVE. FINALLY. I admit I wasn’t expecting my reaction but one belt out of the lyrics “live it like you love it” and I was a gonna.

Never underestimate the power of music to tap into something deep within, all the meaning one little lyric can hold. It’s pretty incredible really. Also, never underestimate a band’s ability to deal with shit that goes wrong. When technical issues meant the band couldn’t play Let The Good Times Be Never Ending, as advertised, the band appeared clam, Tony laughing, Tim chattering away to the crowd letting us “enjoy” the live moment of a guitar change and tune in front of our very eyes. While the band quickly took the opportunity to play their brand new single, Totally Eclipsing, for the very first time.

The band mixed up their set with songs we’ve not heard in ages, I Never Want An Easy Life If Me And He Were Ever To Get There being another of them,  with set staples such as North Country Boy (I mean, come on, as if they could play Northwich and not play it), How High and they ended with the fabulously gritty, pulsating Sproston Green – because, well, I can count on one hand the number of times they’ve not played it as their set closer.

The Charlatans delivered a music fan’s dream last night and I think North By Northwich will continue to deliver to fans across the week in many different ways and for many different reasons. This band keeps a hold of old fans and constantly brings in new, it’s all part of their charm and their strong live set is always going to be one that never fails to wow me.

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