The Charlatans: Manchester Band on the Wall

Manchester’s Band On The Wall was the setting tonight as Tim Burgess and Mark Collins of The Charlatans played an hour-long set of their hits to help raise awareness and funds for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that now affects 100,000 people in the U.K.

It is rare that the opportunity arises to witness such an established act in a venue with a capacity of just 350 people and it was one that I wasn’t going to pass up. With the venue full and a feeling of anticipation in the air a 4-piece string section took to the stage at approximately 10.30 and began playing ‘Tellin’ Stories’, everyone was now waiting for Burgess and Collins to join them, disappointingly they didn’t appear until the song had completed and the string section departed, thankfully though they would all unite later on ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘Intimacy’.

‘Impossible’ from the ‘Us And Us Only’ album was first to be played tonight followed by ‘Smash The System’ and ‘Tell Everyone’ which Mark forgot the chords to and then subsequently excused himself by telling the crowd that he hadn’t played it for 15 years. The fact that this was even played along with ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ from the ‘Tellin’ Stories’ album made the evening feel like more of a spectacle as both songs would normally only have been played on tours to promote the album that they featured on.

As The Charlatans were three members down tonight the set list was rather different from the norm. and known classics such as ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘One To Another’ were completely reworked to the influence of The Byrds and Johnny Cash respectively (both versions feature on the recently released ‘Warm Sounds E.P.’). I found these versions rather refreshing as opposed to when Burgess and Collins played the same versions of past hits but without the organ, drums and bass, such was ‘Here Comes A Soul Saver’ and ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’.

Tim Burgess was on top form throughout, his vocals were strong and coherent and he was continually smiling and encouraging the crowd to sing along at every opportunity, he even got the majority of them to provide the backing vocals of the late Rob Collins on a hauntingly stripped down acoustic version of ‘The Only One I Know’.

The gig ended with the customary Charlatans closer ‘Sproston Green’ for which Burgess surprisingly played acoustic guitar. Without the organ it wasn’t quite the euphoric ending of a full band Charlatans gig but no one seemed to mind.