Charlatans : Manchester University

Nice like that painting of hat-wearing dogs playing pool...

The last time NME saw The Charlatans live was at Glastonbury. On that night they were anointed 'Band Of The People' by a crowd of 20,000. Tonight they're playing a homecoming gig in front of just a fraction of that number. Indeed, the vast majority of the 500 assembled here tonight are super-smug competition winners who spend most of the show on their mobiles yelling: "IS THAT PETE? PETE! I'M AT THE CHARLATANS HOMECOMING GIG, LISTENNNNNNNN!!!!" as they thrust their phones in the direction of the stage.

Still, 500 or 20,000 - it makes little difference, as the essence of The Charlatans live remains the same - it's a very nice thing. If you want an edgy, spine-shuddering experience, go and see The Vines. You want someone to whip his 'piece' out on stage and beat you about the face with it? Try The Parkinsons down the road.

Because when The Charlatans play live, the venue is engulfed in a tsunami of niceness. It's nice like Michael Owen. Nice like that painting of hat-wearing dogs playing pool. Niceness of Lorraine Kelly-type proportions.

But - and here's the problem - occasionally during tonight's 90-minute greatest hits set, 'nice' veers into the zone marked 'intolerably dull'. So not long after a sparklingly soulful 'Tellin' Stories' and a blast through a totally Beck-ified 'Love Is The Key', some of The Charlatans greatest hits ('North Country Boy', 'Can't Get Out Of Bed') begin to underwhelm.

So then. A bit dull? Maybe. Band Of The People? You bet. And they offer few reasons to think that they'll abdicate that position anytime soon.

Imran Ahmed

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