The Charlatans + Deadbeat Echoes
Picture House, Edinburgh
25 August 2012
John Robb covered The Charlatans reprise Tellin’ Stories with LTW signings Deadbeat Echoes in support when they played Manchester earlier this year – read that here – now Sarah Lay catches up with them as the tour comes to a close in Edinburgh.
Sometimes there is a gig and it’s just a gig. It’s alright, nothing wrong with it except a missing connection.
Other times there are gigs and they are like a shot of musical adrenalin delivered straight into your heart. Last night was, most definitely, the latter.
I avoided The Charlatans‘ Tellin’ Stories for most of the last 15 years. Not their fault, just back then it was a wrong place, wrong time album for me paired with one of those missing connection gigs at the cavernous, soulless Manchester Arena when they toured it after release.
But this is an album that shouldnt be easily dismissed. It’s a dirty great slab of indie disco classics and extended psychedelic wig outs spilling over with chiming guitar, gut-tickling bass and chunky swirling keys.
My own personal reticence and the sadness surrounding the band and this album (keyboardist Rob Collins died in a car accident in July 1996 while the album was being recorded), tonight was never going to be anything other than massive. I just didn’t know it would be so joyous.
It’s early doors tonight so Deadbeat Echoes take to the stage in front of a small straggling group of die hards and booze hounds. Despite this they hand out a hefty dose of rock.
Not that I often doubt John Robb (he is my boss after all) but he is bang on when he says they are the best young band in Britain today.
They are so loud, so powerful, so beautiful and assured. Even a broken bass-skin doesn’t slow them down, blazing rock n roll; an excellent opener. By the end of the set the Picture House is filling fast and people are pumped, monkey-walking, boggling and shaking imaginary maracas Bez-style as the Deadbeats Echoes needle hits their groove.
And then it’s time. Time to pull Tellin’ Stories out of it’s he darkness of its birth and celebrate its coming of age. Tim Burgess, every lithe inch the front man, grins infectiously from beneath his bowl of dirty bleached hair as he gives it to us straight in With No Shoes.
The band look happy, relaxed and up for rock and roll. Tim’s distinctive, soft drawl informs us via the words that he will “be the devil, make you, make you mine” and it’s a done deal, we will be the faithful this evening and willingly follow the beat.
If I was worried I’d be left as cold tonight as I was back in the day by the second verse all my fears have been pushed aside. This music is *in me*. It’s going to be a beautiful night.
The top three songs replicate the album running order – With No Shoes, North Country Boy and Tellin’ Stories itself – but then they mix it up and the set is better for it. It moves it from nostalgia to showcase, letting the older songs shine through but letting the band stretch their legs and show off their catalogue and musical prowess.
The indie classics send the happy crowd into rapture. Huge expanding out from the stage is blistering bubbles of beauty.
Burgess backs off as Area 51, the first instrumental, takes hold, giving Martin (Blunt, bass); Jon (Brookes, drums) and Mark (Collins, guitar) the space and line of sight to riff off each other and build the sound. But as much if not more of a music-lover than the rest of us Tim can’t stay back and having signed a copy of his autobiography handed over from the front row, he crouches left of centre, shaking a tambourine beside his bowed, bobbing head.
His enthusiasm spills over continuously, arms aloft, interacting not on mass but one on one with the audience. This is an intimate party thrown by a band who make music because they want to hear it, move to it, get lost in it. It’s hard not to grin from ear to ear and thrown hands skyward when bidden. We belong to them and tonight they very much belong to us.
In his autobiography Tim describes himself as a serial monogamist, in love with the idea of falling in love. Anyone who’s ever been within three feet of him will know that he is a soul full of love, probably the happiest man in music, as he puts it ‘living it how he loves it’. This is evident in his lyrics, poetical covenants to love, life, soul. How High a perfect example the comfort, hope and warmth of “love shines a light and repays you with us, yeah too right I’m gonna pledge my time ’till the day I die” will never tire, will never be anything other than simple and honest; love.
Tellin’ Stories ends, of course, with Rob’s Theme. An instrumental, something the much-missed member was working on when he died. But it’s worth mentioning Tony Rogers skill here; he isn’t playing dead man’s keys, he is doing more than just playing someone else’s tune. This becomes a celebration not a requiem. The crowd going wild, exhilaration peaking; there could be no more fitting tribute to this band, or the memory of Rob.
The encore is almost as long as the main set. Building in aÃÂ devastatingÃÂ wave of psychedelic rock to crash over the sweat-drenched crowd in the so-gorgeous-it-hurts Forever.
We get more of their hits too. Weirdo sounds box fresh not 20 years old, falling short of its recorded version for me only because that deep draw of breath before the verse kicks in on the record is one of the most lust-laden sounds in music history That deep intake the moment of suspension before the rollercoaster of song drops you and you’re lost to anything but the feeling.
It’s an expanding box of delights – Just Lookin’, Just When You’re Thinking Things Over and Here Comes A Soul Saver from their eponymous ’95 album all get an airing. The last of these so powerful in personal memory and so embracing in its sound and sentiment I’m not ashamed to tell you, dear reader, it moved me to tears. While Just When You’re Thinking Things Over takes hold of another gig-goer in the opposite way; life-affirming rebellion sees a girl climb the sound desk and carry out an interpretive dance to the song, frustratingly eluding security’s attempts to bring her down.
We get a slightly slowed down version of The Only One I know and we’re also treated to Blackened Blue Eyes with the vocal never sweeter or more sincere than tonight. But when Sproston Green in announced we all know our time in the magical, musical bubble is almost up. It’s trippy, blissed-out soar provides, as ever, the perfect climax to The Charlatans live.
This didn’t have the feel of a nostalgia show. It feels very different from the ubiquitous album tours popular with people and therefore bands at the moment. It doesn’t feel like a band giving themselves as easy ride by peddling the tried and tested.
The Charlatans are full of energy, glowing infectious energy and enthusiasm. This is a trip for them as much as us. Proving to us all that eventually, after the hurt and hard times subside, the music and love will shine through.
They are imaginative, playful, creative and united. Their huge wonderful back catalogue is genuinely a thing of wonder but even more exciting than finally feeling as connected to these songs as I’d always wanted, and renewing faith in the pure pleasure of their songs is the possibility of what comes next, the hunger for more and more and more.