Liverpool Lomax

The one-and-only survivors from 1990 to remain the same (despite everything) where everyone else has become a different band entirely ([a]Blur[/a], the [B]Manics[/B], for better or for tragically,

The Charlatans, then. The People’s Pals. The one-and-only survivors from 1990 to remain the same (despite everything) where everyone else has become a different band entirely ([a]Blur[/a], the Manics, for better or for tragically, in that respective order). Except tonight, Tim Burgess has blond, cheese-shaped wedges in his hair and is dressed in a black V-neck jersey and white T-shirt ensemble which makes him look exactly like an indie-school-boy John Taylor from Duran Duran which, 15 years ago, would anoint him the High Priest Of All Hunkdom, but, today, makes him look like the Pansy Prince Of All Fop-Rock, but, hey, he did it when he was drunk and at least it wasn’t a mystical eye tattoo or anything.

Tim Burgess is a life-enthusiast, the sort of man who says, “I love smoking and I love drinking ‘cos it makes me smoke more”, a man who can open bottles of beer with his ear which means, barnet bedlam or no, he’s still the best-looking mate you ever had. And he’s your mate, alright, lolloping onstage for the first time since autumn ’97, to stand in a shadowy half-light of zero-ego, as Liverpool frugs gamely to the fabulous familiarity of… er, new single ‘Forever’, in actual fact, which sounds exactly like The Charlatans, only BIGGER which is what The Charlatans do, just like your bestest pal who gets better and wiser the more you realise just what it is you loved about them so much in the first place.

“Thank you very mooch!” lilts Tim. “Looks like everybody’s here! We’ve been waitin’ for it…” As Ant & Dec almost once said, The Charlatans have “so many hits we’re frightened to use ’em”, except they’re frightened of nothing any more, naturally, and here come the hits, wiggling out from the red and yellow, rectangular bulb-lit 1970s cabaret backdrop; ‘North Country Boy’, ‘Tellin’ Stories’, ‘Just Lookin”, ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’, ‘One To Another’, ‘Weirdo’, and every one is MAGIC and the Hammondy bits are HUGE and Liverpool goes berserk, increasingly, to the last band on Earth who can make you do the ‘pretend maracas’ thing and feel like it was all your own idea.

The hardest men in the world beam like ten-year-old bairns and start blubbing (almost) and then beam some more to the new ones, ‘A House Is Not A Home’, ‘Senses’, ‘My Beautiful Friend’, ‘Blonde Waltz’, which are The Charlatans through a huge kaleidoscope full of visions of colossal sorrows and eternal wisdoms, far less wiggly, retro, indie-sap sentimentality, more gigantic, rock’n’roll, psychedelic blues songs, on the strongest drugs in the world, in 1999, the day the sky went black, and then went blue again, just like it always, always will, forever. These are the most grown-up songs they’ve ever invented.

And then they play ‘The Only One I Know’ and even that feels grown-up, just like that bestest pal who is still exactly the same, only better and wiser, which is, and always will be, the invincible, intangible magic of the Charlies – and that’s less a problem, more the stuff that makes the world, momentarily, make absolute sense. And not only are they the one-and-only survivors from 1990, but the only ones who’ve never let us down. Not once. Ever. (And tonight, incidentally, Tim was severely ill and, straight after the show, vomited in his hair or something. And who can blame him?) “You can drop out, do drugs and take over the world,” said a spectacularly annihilated Tim a few years ago. “That’s what I always thought it was about and everyone else thought it was baggy trousers. We’re doing something that’ll last forever. I just want to be great, that’s all. And I think we’re getting there. And all the devils inside me are beginning to turn into angels.” Since then, he’s done exactly what he said he’d always do, and saved some people’s lives. The foolish might not have noticed. Tonight, it’s obvious and it’s official; he’s timeless indie-soul-rock’s Clarence The Angel off It’s A Wonderful Life. In rock’n’roll, or anywhere else, there is no higher accolade..

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