The Charlatans released their first album, Some Friendly, in 1990, and have since come to represent, along with bands such as The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, and Inspiral Carpets, the particular sound of their hometown of Manchester, England in the 90s Britpop movement. Though the band has only had minor success in the US compared to at home in the UK (where all of their albums have charted), we have been fortunate here that, unlike many of their contemporaries, they seem to have maintained a soft spot for US audiences and have continued to tour here relatively regularly. The band last came to DC in September 2010, playing at the Black Cat only days before drummer Jon Brookes collapsed onstage in Philly; they lost him to brain cancer in 2013. But the band has kept going, releasing their 12th album Modern Nature earlier this year. Last week they returned to the District to play for an audience of dedicated fans at the Howard Theatre.
The band opened the show with “Talking In Tones” from the new album, but then immediately looked back to the early days with “Weirdo” from 1992’s Between 10th and 11th. Singer Tim Burgess, now with his hair bleached blond, appears to have barely aged in the intervening years, and dances around the stage with the energy of someone half his age. Guitarist Mark Collins and bassist Martin Blunt also moved around the stage as they anchored the music, while keyboardist Tony Rogers kept up the soaring electric organ that has long been the signature of much of the band’s sound. Together they form the core of a band that has remained intact since the 1990s, while many of their contemporaries have split and reformed several times over.
While the set featured heavily on Modern Nature, including seven of the album’s eleven tracks (including single “So Oh,” as well as “Let the Good Times Be Never Ending,” “Trouble Understanding,” and “Come Home Baby”), the band also included a good survey of classic tracks from their back catalog. “North Country Boy” from 1997’s Tellin’ Stories, “Blackened Blue Eyes” from 2006’s Sympatico, and “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over” from 1995’s self-titled album all featured, as well as the track which introduced the band to many in the audience and has since become their defining song, “The Only One I Know” from 1990’s Some Friendly. The band played an extended encore, adding two tracks not on the setlist – “You’re So Pretty – We’re So Pretty” from 2001’s Wonderland and “Here Comes a Soul Saver” from the self titled release – before closing with the planned encore of “Bad Days” from 2008’s You Cross My Path and “Sproston Green” from Some Friendly.
Indie-pop supergroup Eyelids, co-fronted by John Moen of The Decemberists and Chris Slusarekno of Guided By Voices, opened the show playing songs from their debut album 854.