The Charlatans UK: Not Quite As Great As Their Music
Patrick Cherniawski
7/16/2002 10:53:49 AM

It’s too bad when a near-capacity crowd turns out to see the Charlatans UK in concert and can only turn out polite applause. But who could blame them? Performing at Washington DC’s Night Club 9:30, the 55-minute show was followed by a 23-minute encore that equally failed at getting a stronger response from the fans. Lead singer, Tim Burgess, was drowned out almost totally by bass guitarist, Martin Blunt. This made the otherwise unintelligible lyrics, also inaudible. Keyboardist, Tony Rogers, and drummer, Jon Brookes, managed to hold their own against the overpowering sound of Blunt’s bass guitar, but the same couldn’t be said of lead guitarist, Mark Collins. This was probably for the best – his one notable solo was neither inspiring nor original.

The Charlatans were not tight, and lacked the sharp timing one associates with being in the groove. Tightness comes from excitement and energy. With the exception of Burgess and Brookes, the Charlatans had neither, almost seeming bored. One Charlatan’s fan said they appeared to be “going through the motions” and called the set “short”.

To his credit, Tim Burgess, looking like a beat up Donnie Osmond, tried to woo the crowd. With hands in pockets often slightly stooped, Burgess pranced around the stage, made love to the microphone, and played a cowbell and harmonica in an effort to energize a crowd caught up in being too cool to get into the music.

Given the size of the venue, one would think that some thought had gone into both the lighting and sound. Not. The lighting and sound sucked. Everything was overpowered by Blunt. The music wasn’t nearly loud enough to justify the back walls of 9:30 shaking. The lighting also did little to complement the music. A psychedelic flair would have gone a long ways toward adding to the experience

Despite everything else, the music was powerful and moving – of the variety that cuts your girlfriend’s inhibitions better than alcohol. And if you were ever looking for music to turn up and shake out your neighbors, this is it. Charlatans manage to be familiar without being repetitive – a neat trick since they didn’t play a single ballad. The music had an oddly reassuring sound. The strong beat, an organ heavy sound from the keyboard, a nice mix of distortion all added to their uniqueness – perhaps a combination of the Stones and Alice Cooper.

As a concert experience, the show was solidly mediocre. The technical screw-ups and the lack of energy from both the band and the crowd didn’t help. All of the elements were in place for an inspiring show, but it fell apart during execution. Fortunately, the Charlatan’s music itself is still great.


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