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The Charlatans: Edinburgh review

Tim Burgess and co finish 30th anniversary tour in style in Scotland's capital.

It’s strange going to a concert at night when the sun is shining, especially in the usually grey surroundings of Edinburgh. You long for a wide-open beer garden in the Grassmarket, instead of a dark confined concert venue.

But we make exceptions for The Charlatans. Especially when they’re in town to celebrate their 30th Anniversary tour which, due to postponements, has added another year onto that figure.

Tim Burgess and the gang are a contradiction. On one hand they’re British music legends, still going strong while many others have fallen by the wayside. Still producing decent albums. Still putting on fantastic live shows. You can’t help but feel they’ve never had the praise and the glory they’ve deserved. They’ve never been taken as seriously as they should have. Not that it bothers the group or the loyal fanbase.

The crowd that gathers to worship them is your typical Britpop audience. Faces you’ve spotted at concerts over the years without knowing the names. Bellies bigger, hair going or gone grey. Some have their kids with them, passing the torch to the young team along with a plastic pint pot.

After an enthusiastic support slot from Martin Carr, formally of The Boo Radleys, the band emerges on stage. The ever-reliable Martin Blunt stands with his trusty bass draped over his shoulder. Over to his right is guitarist Mark Collins while Tony Rodgers waits at his keyboard to give the band that organ backbone that makes them unique.

With it being a greatest hits set there’s a lot of ground to go over. They start with ‘Forever,’ pound for pound quite possibly their finest moment. A sprawling, simmering epic that last over seven minutes on record and far longer live. It’s like that bit in the first Avengers film when all the heroes unite to pager the bad guy while demonstrating their superpowers.

Last to enter the stage is frontman Tim Burgess. He still has the same cheeky face from all those years ago but it’s now under a thatch of peroxide blonde hair that makes him look a bit like He-Man in a Christmas jumper.

‘Weirdo’ gets the first set of frantic limbs on top of a shaky pair of shoulders. ‘Can’t Get Out Of Bed,’ evokes the spirit of Big Star then Burgess proclaims it’s good to be back in the city before they go further back to their esteemed past with ‘Then.’

The band play in front of a giant screen which projects snippets of videos for the songs they’re performing and other recordings. It’s touching, especially when images of two talents no longer with us in the form of Rob Collins and Jon Brookes appear.

‘Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over’, the best song released in the week of the infamous Blur v Oasis chart battle of the 90’s cascades into 'One To Another'. The latter track pulsates with threat and menace like a modern retelling of The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil.’

Burgess has been elevated to National Treasure status in recent times. He became a lockdown hero for his Twitter Listening Parties which encouraged the public to respond to the live playing of various records with a narrative provided by the artists themselves.

He’s also an exceptional frontperson. He’ll sometimes contain the swagger of Mohammed Ali giving Liam Gallagher a piggyback and at other times comes across all humble and shy.

While Burgess still has his boyish charm, his voice occasionally falters. He may hold his hands up in the air but the high notes of ‘A Man Needs To Be Told’ are just slightly out of reach.

It’s a minor quibble. ‘The Only One I Know’ funks things up a bit. ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘How High’ prove the album ‘Tellin’ Stories’ was one of the finest of the Nineties. “It’s good to be back,” beams Burgess and he really means it, returning for the encore. ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’ has a sense of poignancy with its line “There won’t be a dry eye in the house tonight.” The twentieth song of the night ‘Sporston Green’ ends the show and the current tour.

Burgess was the last on stage at the beginning of the night, and is the first to depart it. They’re off to do festivals and stadiums he says. I wouldn’t rule them out coming back for their 60th anniversary.


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