Aberdeen Music Hall

Very occasionally, [B]The Charlatans[/B]' decade-and-a-half together means that proceedings are just a little too professionally executed, too polished and cosy...

“It wasn’t just full of football types, tonight, was it?” asks a worried Tim Burgess after tonight’s gig, blond bits flapping in the air-conditioned wind. One thousand blokes and around 23 women, much wailing of songs about Aberdeen FC – well, yes, frankly it was. It could have been hostile out there, but tellingly, with an ease you couldn’t rely on from any other band at the moment, The Charlatans ensured that wasn’t the case at all.

Their all-important Big Year powers on in fine fettle, then, the first night of The Charlatans‘ UK tour amply demonstrating the huge swathe of sentiment they can bring to even the most difficult circumstances. Big Year also equals Big Lighting Rig – the band engulfed in Pink Floyd-sized rays as they open with the elated sprawl of ‘Forever’. From there on in, familiar favourites and new missives come in equal measure and with equal capability. ‘Impossible’ and ‘A House Is Not Home’ all naggingly addictive guitar lines and Dylan-esque twang, the decidedly epic, exceedingly gracious ‘North Country Boy’, the podium-packing ebullience of ‘One To Another’ which still sounds like the world’s best highly vibey house tune which isn’t actually a house tune, and all the while Burgess performs a neat balancing act – never allowing arrogance nor bland inertia to inform his stage presence. You get the odd kung-fu move, but mainly the strangely affecting sight of a man strolling on a slightly wobbly escalator.

Very occasionally, The Charlatans‘ decade-and-a-half together means that proceedings are just a little too professionally executed, too polished and cosy. Not so when ‘My Beautiful Friend’ begins. Bass and guitars claw at your guts, Burgess swoons, [I]”I don’t know how we made it this far dear/Without losing at least an ear”[/I], to which the 1,000 Aberdeen FC fans nod knowingly.

Finally, The Charlatans take us back to pretty much the beginning of their voyage through triumph and tragedy. The strobes flash and the dry ice wafts just like it’s 1989 and ‘The Only One I Know’ swaggers into earshot, all mellow organ swirls and R&B funkiness.

Imagine if The Charlatans had known back then what the next ten years held in store – they surely would have gone and done something a lot less painful. And although it hasn’t always been as clear as it was tonight, we would have really, really missed out.

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