the Charlatans
live review: Fomfest
May 22nd 2011

A flash of tangerine orange backstage catches the eye – the distinctive glow of a departing Salford Van Hire vehicle completing a laborious manoeuvre over boggy ground.
It’s Mark E Smith’s signature mode of transport and given The Fall have recently vacated the stage, it seems a coincidence too far.

Whether it’s the angry clouds curling round Capesthorne Hall’s distinctive pinnacles and turrets, the prospect of The Charlatans or the band’s urgent need to go and lie in a darkened room that is calling Mark away is unclear. But one thing’s for sure, Tim Burgess and co are going to have to go the extra mile to top the toe-curling brilliance of The Fall’s set.

With the grim resolve of Death Row criminals guitarist Pete Greenway, bassist Dave ”ËœThe Eagle’ Spurr and drummer Keiron Melling resurrected old classics such as ”ËœPsykick Dance Hall’ and ”ËœMuzorewi’s Daughter’ ”“ resolutely ignoring Smith as he tinkered with mics, twiddled with knobs and stood with his arse in the air – scrabbling with crumpled lyric sheets.

Aiming a petulant backheel at the soundman for daring to restore the bass drum mic from its broken pelican stoop”¦overturning a cymbal and nudging his wife Eleanor unceremoniously off the organ to tunelessly thump the keys, Mark was in fine fettle ”“ curmudgeonly, incomprehensible, unmissable.
After The Fall – the musical equivalent of a Heston Blumenthal aperitif – FOM Fest serves up its main course of The Charlatans.

Under the belt of a blue-black sky the last remaining festival-goers swarm to the Satellite Stage ”“ gathering in a dense shape-shifting mass that consumes the grounds in a matter of minutes.
The broken carcass of the Big Top and eerily empty Bowl Stage hint at the rain and hail-lashed horror we’ve endured to get to this point. But now is the time to shake off the cloak of malaise and party to the final curtain.

The spindle-thin legs of Burgess are seen ascending the stage-side steps as sound technicians lavish their final attentions on the band’s keyboard, which is so central to The Charlatans’ sound.
It’s a cockle-warming sight to watch the band finally step out and take up their respective positions – Burgess grinning broadly and toying shyly with his coat hem. The bowlcut may have been replaced by a bedraggled pony tail, but at 43 he’s still got the cupid lips that made him an indie poster-boy back in the day.

Launching into opening number ”ËœThen’ Burgess settles into a baggy-tastic dance groove – think Bez without the bug-eyed flaying.

It’s catching and as we accelerate into ”ËœWeirdo’ a sea of arms spike upwards. The wicked puppetry of keyboardist Tony Rogers, guitarist Mark Collins, bassist Martin Blunt and drummer Jon Brookes stretch our strings even tighter with the likes of ”ËœNorth Country Boy’, ”ËœOne To Another’ and ”ËœThe Only One I Know’.

Like A Certain Ration and Buzzcocks before them The Charlatans seem determined to prove these young whippersnappers don’t make ”Ëœem like they used to ”“ treating us to hit after bona fide hit from their three best-selling albums.

A tsunami of good feeling begins in the mosh pit, swells up the grassy knoll and ripples back to the food vans and retailers who have all stopped to watch. A lone St John’s Ambulance woman is seen getting her groove on in a mud-spattered hi-vis jacket.

Drawing the festival to a sweeping, anthemic close with ”ËœSproston Green’ The Charlatans leave Capesthorne Hall and its satisfied party people to a well-earned sleep.

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  1. Grow up Brunskill. Glad to see you’re still a fan of Michelle’s work, but don’t be too downhearted. I think the next blog is going to be a venerable tits fest… just for you.

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