Union Chapel, London, October 24
At some point during Tim Burgess’ writing sessions with Kurt Wagner from Lambchop for his new solo album ‘Oh No I Love You’, the pair of them must have pissed into a magic fountain at the same time and swapped bodies. Because the fella hiding behind a bleached mop of hair, sloping around beneath the Union Chapel altar, emitting fragile falsetto sighs and hushed country whispers couldn’t possibly be the same bloke who sweetly belted ‘One To Another’ and ‘North Country Boy’ as lead singer in The Charlatans. No, as Burgess crouches by the guitar amps as if trying to accustom himself to his new country sound – played, to confuse the poor boy further, by Charlatans guitarist Mark Collins – it’s clear Wagner has possession of him now.
Tim’s 2003 debut solo album ‘I Believe’ let on that, behind The Charlatans’ pomp-pop preen, Burgess was a secret pedal-steel plinker. But tonight, running through ‘Oh No I Love You’ in its entirety and admitting nothing by his old band into the setlist, he’s consumed by the spirit of Lambchop. He basks in their dark prairie winds, trots across their lonesome plains and chews upon their psychotropic cactuses. He brings out a string section headed by The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan to lace ‘Hours’ with antique country suaveness, and a gospel trio are deployed on ‘A Gain’. The oceanic guitar swells of ‘Tobacco Fields’ sound like Manchester levelled to make way for nicotine plantations, while over the mournful jig of ‘The Economy’ Burgess’ frail falsetto exudes Wagner’s demeanour of the Hicksville Morrissey, forlorn and alone at a barn dance.
The result, however, is utterly harmonious. If Burgess’ fandom of Wagner’s alt.country is clearly deep and genuine (he gets so caught up in the flamenco flounce of a cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)’ that he forgets an entire verse), the lyrics that Wagner has supplied in return are totally Tim. The immensely moving ‘A Case For Vinyl’, about seeing past relationships stack up like old records, is painfully fitting for a seven-inch junkie who’s recently undergone major emotional upheavals, while songs called ‘Anytime Minutes’ and lines like “I saw Caspar The Ghost on your old cereal box” click perfectly with the charm and playfulness of the man who recently created his own Kellogg’s breakfast cereal called Totes Amazeballs.
And Tim revels in it all. Even being called a “cock” by a photographer who’s angry about one of his Twitter posts fails to dampen the ruddy-cheeked jubilance he throws into old solo tracks ‘We All Need Love’ and ‘Oh My Corazon’. It’s heartening to watch him get good and lost for a while.