THEY never enjoyed the global success of other English bands like Oasis, Blur and The Stone Roses in the 1990s, but The Charlatans had some killer tunes and hardcore indie and shoegaze fans regard them as being highly influential.
So when it was announced they were playing the Rosemount Hotel on their 30th anniversary tour, I jumped online and snapped up tickets.
A huge incentive was seeing them at the Rosemount – an intimate old-school venue in North Perth that holds just a few hundred folk.
With a massive steel H beam above the stage and pipes snaking across the ceiling, it had the air of a slightly shabby venue where you knew you’d get some raucous and honest rock ’n’ roll.
No corporate boxes or trays of dim sum here, gov’nor.
It was also an opportunity to get about as close as you could to The Charlatans, which seemed surreal given how big the Manchester band were at one point during the “baggy” scene and then through Brit Pop and Cool Britannia.
They had sold out their first night at the Rosemount, so a second gig was hastily arranged for the Sunday, and they were on stage sharp at 8.30pm with minimal fuss and pomp.
Charlatans’ charismatic frontman Tim Burgess still looked the part – svelte with a peroxide coconut hairdo, he was sporting an ironic Xmas jumper and still had that trademark infectious grin.
Throughout the night he was engaging and lively – jumping on top of the monitors, doing his cute little indie dance and interacting with fans in the audience.
At various points he took videos and photos of the audience, himself and the band using his mobile.
I don’t know if this was an ironic statement on the use of phones at gigs or just him documenting the performance, but I’ve never seen it done before and he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself.
Burgess is 55, but didn’t look it, and had an energy belying his years. A very young-at-heart performer.
The music was en pointe and they smashed through their greatest hits including The Only One I Know, One to Another, North Country Boy and Weirdo, as well as the odd deep cut for hardcore fans. Their unique mix of psychedelia, dance rhythms and indie rock hasn’t dated and still sounded fresh with the Hammond organ particularly tasty.
The gig was ear-splittingly loud – too loud at some points – with the intricacies of the music lost amidst the swirling boom of the bass, but it seemed to sort itself out halfway through the gig.
Burgess aside, the rest of the the band were the very definition of “shoegaze” – barely looking up from the floor all night.
Well into paunchy middle-age, perhaps they felt self-conscious in such a small venue or maybe that was their 90s thing and they were sticking to it.
The 90 minute set was the perfect length and finished with a psychedelic jam as Burgess sauntered off stage, in what was the final date of their Australian tour.
As we spilled out into the Rosemount courtyard, my friends and I were cornered by a Charlatans anorak in his mid-50s who had travelled all over the world to see them.
He regaled us with tales of meeting the band backstage, boozy hotel room shenanigans and his dealings with other 90s indie heroes like Mani from The Stone Roses.
His intense, mad stories seemed like a fitting farewell to a band that has a devout indie following in the UK, but never quite enjoyed the global success they deserved.
The Charlatans, Rosemount Hotel, Sunday October 16.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK