My introduction to early alternative music was originally from KDGE, which was a truly fantastic radio station back in the early '90s. I can remember getting ready for school while listening to Brian The Butler, the morning host during those early years, and being treated to new music from the Mock Turtles, Blur, the Catherine Wheel and the Charlatans UK. Remember when alternative radio actually played amazing music? The first time I heard "Weirdo," I immediately ran to my local record shop and picked up a copy of Between 10th And 11th. Nearly fourteen years later, I FINALLY got to see one of my earliest favorite bands live on stage.
In the past couple of months I have gotten a chance to see two different sides of the Charlatans UK. During SXSW, I experienced full-on drunken rock & roll at the Levi's/FADER Trading Post. Frontman Tim Burgess was pretty much toasted during that brief set, giving the crowd plenty of rock posturing and snotty Britpop attitude. It was glorious. Devoted fans went apeshit as the band blasted through what was mostly hits from their vast catalog. Hell, even I got chills during the opening chords on the organ during the performance of their classic "The Only One I Know." Keyboardist Tony Rogers is the man!
Last night, our beloved Charlatans UK returned to NYC for a show at Webster Hall. With a new album now out in stores, Burgess & Co. are hitting select markets to support Simpatico. In quite a contrast to what I witnessed in Austin, this performance was tame and, well... sober. Not that I am complaining in any way whatsoever, it was just interesting to see a completely different side to the band than I witnessed back in March.
The band took the stage to the sound of police sirens at 10:15pm, which segued into the new tune "NYC (No Need To Stop)." This was quite the appropriate selection to kick off a show in the Big Apple, especially when it has been a decade since these Britpop pioneers visited New York, which Burgess pointed out early on in the set. For fans of the Charlatans' earlier material, some of the newer tunes needed to be listened to with very open minds. The reggae-flavored tunes, such as "For Your Entertainment", are definitely more than a bit of a change in sound from their Madchester days. What got me about songs such as that one was the musicianship from these insanely talented lads. Martin Blunt's bass lines were dead on, locking in time with some mighty impressive drumming by Jon Brookes.
Tim Burgess did give us a few old school treats throughout the course of the evening, including "Just Lookin'" and "North Country Boy." As a longtime fan of these guys, it really was a treat to hear them bring these classics to life on stage. Burgess even got his dance on during "North Country Boy," giving fans a look at this best impersonation of a country jig. He seemed to be loosening up a bit at this point as the band breezed through "Can't Get Out Of Bed" and "Jesus Hairdo."
Finally, nearly two-thirds of the way through the set, the baggy-pants dance inspiring "One To Another" finally came up. If you are unfamiliar with the "baggy pants dance," try to find any music video from Britpop bands during the early '90s. It is a bit like jogging in place, but with a bit more swagger. For the best example, watch early footage of the Stone Roses, as Ian Brown has that dance down to a science. The crowd got moving during this gem, during which I had to run down to the floor to join my fellow Madchester fans. The VIP section just didn't cut it at that point.
Many thanks go out to Drew Murray at Sanctuary for getting my wife and I in to the show last night. The Charlatans UK are still one brilliant live band, so make sure you catch them if they happen to be rolling through a town near you. While you are at it, pick up a copy of their new album Simpatico. It is good stuff.