The Charlatans headlined A Night For Jon Brookes, a tribute concert for their late drummer, at London’s Royal Albert Hall last night (October 18).
The evening started with Birmingham band Dumb, followed by Tim & Friends, a line-up featuring New Order‘s Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, Mumford and Sons‘ Winston Marshall, The Vaccines‘ Freddie Cowan and Arni Arnason, and The Pretenders’ James Walbourn, with Tim Burgess on vocals.
They performed New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’, The Vaccines’ ‘Melody Calling’ and finally Joy Division‘s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, with Burgess explaining how the band came to be. “I asked The Vaccines, but the singer was on holiday. I asked New Order, but the singer was on holiday. That wasn’t going to stop us, so I said I’d sing.”
Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield was up next, delivering a three-song acoustic set comprising ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’. Speaking between songs, Bradfield said: “I don’t want to get too deep because there are people here who knew Jon a lot better than I. But we met a fair few times over the years, and he was always fucking beautiful. And the boy had groove.”
Liam & Friends came next, essentially Beady Eye without injured guitarist Gem Archer who, incidentally, was in the audience, walking with a crutch but otherwise looking to be in good shape. Instead of Archer, former Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs performed with the band as they ripped through Oasis songs ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Columbia’.
Finally, The Charlatans came to the stage, with former The Verve drummer Pete Salisbury filling in for Brookes. Speaking to NME before the concert, Charlatans bassist Martin Blunt said: “There was a tour when Jon was ill and wasn’t going to be able to play. We asked who he wanted to replace him, and his first choice was Pete Salisbury.”
Blunt added: “There is one special song in the setlist, for Jon, but I’ve found since he passed that every song has taken on a new meaning. Lyrics that I never thought about before have suddenly become really poignant. The whole evening had to be a celebration. A big send-off, as well as a big thank you to everyone for their support and a chance to raise money for an under-funded charity. We’ve learned since Jon was ill that brain tumours are being detected a lot more, but research, care systems and funding is severely lacking.”
The band’s singer Tim Burgess said he’d been “amazed” by the support from musicians following Brookes’ death. He said: “I’ll think about Jon during every line of every song.”
They began their set with ‘Forever’, and moved through some of their best-known songs including ‘North Country Boy’, ‘Just Lookin”, ‘The Only One I Know’, ‘One To Another’ and ‘How High’. There was also a particularly moving version of ‘My Beautiful Friend’, before which Burgess said: “I think we can all guess who this is for.”
After ‘How High’, three of The Charlatans left the stage, leaving guitarist Mark Collins and keyboard player Tony Rogers with Liam & Friends, who returned for a version of George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, dedicated by Gallagher to “Jon’s missus Debbie”. Finally The Charlatans returned for their traditional encore of ‘Sproston Green’.
Jon Brookes passed away in August, aged 44. He was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2010 and underwent several operations and treatment for the condition. Proceeds from the night went to The Brain Tumour Charity, of which The Charlatans are now patrons. The charity say more than 9,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK, with the condition being the biggest cancer killer among those under 40. The charity have also set up The Jon Brookes Fund as a lasting tribute to the drummer.
The Charlatans played:
‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’
‘North Country Boy’
‘Blackened Blue Eyes’
‘The Only One I Know’
‘One To Another’
‘Here Comes A Soulsaver’
‘My Beautiful Friend’