Queens Social Club, Sheffield
22nd September 2013
Seemingly not content with heading out on a second tour of solo material from 2012’s Oh No I Love You, Tim Burgess is also taking his O Genesis label favourites with him.
Sarah Lay caught up with the tour in Sheffield (images by Elspeth Moore, Manchester 23rd September).
It’s Sunday night, on what might be the last warm day of summer for the year, and I’m in a social club in Sheffield. The foil strands of a shimmering curtain swish and crackle in artificially chilled air, dim lighting giving some chic to the shabby. The Queens Social Club is a great little rock venue.
The Twin Peaks soundtrack plays as punters gather, members of the bands making up the bill tonight amble around full of camaraderie. There’s anticipation in the air and a sense that one man is very much shaping this evening, and this tour. It’s not just a great line up in an interesting venue; this is Tim Burgess indulging and sharing his own musical passions as much as it is an opportunity to get out and perform his own material.
Many may peg him as simply a Charlatan, but Burgess is a musical magpie, a true lover of sound, and he’s been gathering his treasures at his label O Genesis as well as feeding his many influences into his solo material.
The evening kicks off with The Gramotones; a band that has been steadily crafting their sound and building a following over the last couple of years. Sharp looks and sharper sounds grab the attention of the gathering crowd. From three-part harmonies, reverb-drenched guitar and a building wall of persuasive pop sound; The Gramotones may be opening tonight, but could easily hold their own higher up bigger bills given the chance.
The musical mood shifts with Throwing Up. Tim tweets from backstage that he’s ‘waiting for TU to tear it up’ and that is exactly what they do.
The London trio released their LP Over You on O Genesis in the summer and tonight we get tracks from it, sounding wild and urgent, but played in lax style. This is Agit-pop and no mistaking…catchy hooks and scuzzy riffs with a slew of syrupy vocal layered over the top. It’s fast and fairly furious (in a way that suggests taking it outside to conclude in the car park rather than merely getting it over and done with quick) and tear it up is spot on for what they do.
There’s enough of what has gone before coming through to bring the comfort of familiarity – the dirt of Nirvana, the defiance of Riot Grrrl, abrupt but catchy punk melodies of The Clash – and yet it’s mixed up in a way that makes this feel like an adventure in future sound too.
This is their last night on the tour and they dedicate their last track to a watching Hatcham Social. There is lots of love between the bands on the bill tonight, all part of the wider Burgess tribe, sharing passion for music as much as space on a line up.
Hatcham Social is another band that has been growing it’s sound. Tonight there is more volume, not in decibels, but in songs that are fuller and rounder. Highlight of the set is their new single More Power to Live, released today, on (you guessed it) O Genesis. It’s packed with sleazy riffs, powering rhythm, chants and ooh-ooh-ahs. It’s a great indie track that expands to fill the venue, and a promising introduction to their forthcoming album.
Where they struggle tonight is with their more delicate numbers. The crowd is chatty and ambient noise seems to carry easily. It means at mid-point from the stage the intricacy and intimacy of some tracks is eroded. Hatcham can’t be held accountable for this though and rather than annoy it leaves a yearning to see them on quieter terms where the shyer number in their set can soar.
And then it’s time for Tim to take to the stage, bringing with him fellow Charlatan Mark Collins and a second shift for three quarters of Hatcham Social (are we still calling this backing band The Anytime Minutes? We are for now).
A hush falls as Burgess begins a spoken word version of A Case for Vinyl, his nasal northern intonation bringing resignation to the lyric, gently punctuated by the clunk-hiss of Red Stripe being opened; somehow an audience interruption which fits the mood of the track.
And, as we know, this audience isn’t here to stand in shadowy reverence; the set stutters around rousing chants declaring Burgess, Collins, Brookes as heroes. It pauses for Tim to read a message from the screen of a phone thrust forward; it rejects the calls for numerous Charlatans numbers which will not be heard tonight (because sometimes a performance needs to be given not directed from the floor).
But when it’s in flight this is a set packed with tracks from Oh No I Love You, mostly sounding closer to country than the electro-washed record – a nice twist rather than faithfully reconstructed in the flesh. Live different influences come to the fore, the northerness of this record casting a shadow over the Nashville without blocking it out.
The quiet beginnings of Tobacco Fields brings crowd noise crashing in again, but as the track builds the layers resonate as much as the bass Burgess brings into the vocal and the part-sepia tinged Depression dustbowl, part-post apocalyptic vision pulls uncomfortably, but compulsively at the pit of the stomach. When you let it in, this is a devastating track in the very best sense of the word.
Hours becomes far more direct with guitars replacing the dreaminess of the record’s Disney strings and a version of The Economy is far closer to R Stevie Moore’s cover for this year’s Oh No I Love You More remix record than the Burgess original – a perfect example of how these tracks don’t begin or end with Tim, more that he is one reflection of how they could sound.
He does a cover version too, a faithful rendition of Arthur Russell’s I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face. This gentle Americana seems to bring together the sound of both The Charlatans and Tim’s solo output, his voice suited and comfortable in this range. It is also clearly a big influence on the Oh No… songs, but it is the poignancy of this lyric on loss which strikes tonight.
Impossible follows, the crowd dancing and singing along as they do when the slowed down The Only One I Know hits them further down the set. It’s an interesting version of the classic song – now a bona fide indie anthem in it’s native form. This slower acoustic version is the come down to the original’s Big Night Out, the body left wanting by a soul still willing. Burgess leads the crowd in exaggerated arms aloft swaying and as he grins from the stage you can’t help but smile with him, taken in with the collective moment.
There’s a further treat to end the set as we get Oh My Corazon from his debut solo album, 2003’s I Believe. A decade on and this song has lost none of it’s simple charm, none of it’s honest romance, none of it’s ability to get your feet dancing and your heart singing. It’s an uplifting, soul-soaring end to the set.
But of course it isn’t the end as we must have an encore. We get another re-worked Charlatans’ classic as twang is added to North Country Boy before the latest album is bought back to the forefront of our minds with the incredibly danceable, lyrically wonderful, White.
So, in this wonderful little social club in Sheffield, we find ourselves at the end for tonight. Burgess, without ego, has given not only another stellar performance of his own but provided a stage to some of the music that makes him tick too.
I leave with a head and a heart full of music, an excitement to go and follow some of the trajectories for discovery that these bands have set tonight.
The tour continues:
- 25 September – The Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh
- 26 September – Ironworks, Inverness
- 27 September – Mareel Centre, Shetland
- 29 September – Sage Hall 2, Gateshead
- 30 September – Brudenell Social, Leeds
- 16 December (rescheduled date) – Islington Assembly Hall, London
Tim played at Band on the Wall in Manchester on 23 September and we spotted plenty of Manchester legends in the crowd – see our picture special from the gig here.
Images by Elspeth Moore.