Monday, 14 March 2011

The Charlatans Acoustic Gig - Deaf Institute Manchester, March 13th 2011

The Charlatans' release of the Warm Sounds EP on March 8th accompanies an acoustic tour by vocalist Tim Burgess and guitarist Mark Collins. I think the last time I saw Burgess live was back in 2003 as the support act for the Stereophonics' tour - he impressed me then, and he impressed me last night in Manchester when Popsiculture headed to the Deaf Institute.

It's probably the perfect venue for this kind of gig - full of character, inviting and open-armed, while Burgess and Collins occupied the space brilliantly, delivering acoustic tracks cherry-picked from The Charlatans' back-catalogue over the years and seemingly cherished as much by the performers as by the audience. A memorable experience and an evening of magic for those lucky enough to get tickets.

Warm Sounds - EP - The Charlatans

The Performance

The Deaf Institute's upstairs hall was packed - and I do mean packed - for this one. It's a space similar to a small-town independent cinema screen and would probably seat 100 people if that's what it was. Last night it felt like maybe three times that many people were there - maybe more. Towards the back, it was shoulder to shoulder. I can only imagine what it was like at the front, but there was a welcoming and friendly atmosphere and the only casualties of the night were probably a few spilt drinks.

Decoration was as minimalist as the rest of the performance - no particularly special lighting schemes or anything like that. Just a warm glow across the stage and a projected video accompaniment on what looked like a bedsheet to the right - you can just catch a glimpse of it in some of the YouTube videos. The focus was very much on the music, and rightly so.

For me, The Only One I Know sums up the spirit of this entire gig. Check out the video and you've got the whole thing encapsulated perfectly - the stripped-back and entrancing guitar, the chatter of the crowd, the measured and masterful vocals. The campfire feeling as the audience begin to sing along. The sense of being the only person Burgess is singing to, yet one of hundreds singing along. It was actually a fairly eerie sensation, yet overwhelmingly positive at the same time.

The Verdict

I think 2011 is the year that 'real' music makes its comeback. I'm talking about round-the-campfire, singalong, inclusive music. Acoustic gigs are nothing new, but they've often been fairly intimate events in the past. Last night, The Charlatans played a room that was bursting at the seams with people, yet still made it feel intimate. The sea of heads between my position and the stage melted away each time a new song began, and only reappeared with the rapturous applause that followed the final line.

Perhaps there were slightly too many people for the size of the venue - it felt like the local pub on derby day - but the atmosphere was warm and the performance more than made up for any minor discomfort. The EP is available exclusively from iTunes, The Charlatans' own online store and the gig venues, so it's a nice accompaniment for anyone who makes it to a live show, and a consolation prize for those unable to get tickets.

Warm Sounds - EP - The Charlatans

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