For one night only, James and The Charlatans shared the stage at a sold out Liverpool Echo Arena on Saturday night; a double bill that’s been on the radar for a while according to recent interviews with both The Charlatans’ lead singer Tim Burgess and James bassist Jim Glennie.
Kicking off proceedings were The Charlatans, who received critical acclaim for their twelfth studio album ‘Modern Nature’ last year. The band began with the bass-driven ‘Weirdo’ and boasted a hit-peppered set that saw classics such as ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ played alongside the rousing ‘So Oh’ and ‘Come Home Baby’ from ‘Modern Nature’. Though they rose to fame in the 90’s, their hits sounded as fresh as ever, with their new tracks highlighting their talent of continuing to produce incredibly well received music.
Collaborations have been teased by Tim Burgess and James front man Tim Booth for months, and towards the end of their set, Burgess introduced Booth and James’ Andy Diagram for a cover of ‘Rescue’ by Echo & The Bunnymen. It was clear to see the mutual respect that the two bands possess for one another, as Team Tim shared vocals and we were left wondering about the possibility of another collaboration during James‘ set. The Charlatans ended on fan favourite ‘Sproston Green’, sending the crowd wild one more time before swiftly departing the stage.
It’s been a manic year for headliners James who saw their new album ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ peak at number 2 in the charts back in March. Since its release they’ve toured the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand – Saturday night was their final gig of 2016 and as part of a short tour they’d begun in Lisbon the previous weekend. Notorious for their live shows, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the opening track ‘Waltzing Along’, sparking a mass sing along before the lyrics had even kicked in.
Though the band played hits such as ‘Come Home’ and ‘Ring The Bells’, they’re certainly not a nostalgia band and songs from the new album sounded as rich as ever; from its leading single ‘To My Surprise’ (dedicated to Donald Trump) to the show stopping ‘Attention’. Strung together by keyboardist Mark Hunter, ‘Attention’ captured the bands dynamic as they worked together to deliver a performance of pure euphoria. It would be criminal to not mention their dynamic during a slowed down ‘Five-O’ too, which began with a stunning extended violin solo from multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies, whilst Booth sat in front of David Baynton-Power’s drum kit looking completely awestruck at the sheer talent that his band-mates posses.
Booth first broke the barrier between the band and the audience by crowd surfing during ‘Surfer’s Song’ just three songs in. Crowd favourite ‘Born Of Frustration’ saw him go for a wander through the seats, dancing his way through a sea of people whilst Diagram visited the barrier for a soaring trumpet solo before appearing in the seated area opposite Booth. Though it’s actions like this that add a great deal of intimacy to the bands performances, their connection with the crowd is down to a lot more. Their performances are full of power and overwhelmingly moving, with an acoustic rendition of ‘She’s A Star’, the poignant ‘Moving On’ and the beautifully delicate ‘Feet Of Clay’ from the new album, being three prime examples – the latter two in particular receiving the reception they desired from the attentive audience.
James wasted no time in returning for their encore, with Booth explaining that they wanted to play as many songs as possible before the 11pm curfew. More mass sing-along’s occurred for ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ and ‘Sometimes’, as well as ‘Laid’ which saw Burgess return to the stage with The Charlatans’ guitarist Mark Collins for the second collaboration of the night. The band ended on the second single from ‘Girl At The End Of The World’; ‘Nothing But Love’. Though less than one year old, the track felt like it had been in the set for years and resulted in a sea of arms waving in unison, whilst confetti dropped from the ceiling and covered the more than headline worthy band before they took their final bow.
‘One Night Only’ brought together two remarkable sets from two bands both at the top of their game. The set up may have been just for that one night, but it was certainly a night that will stay in the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to be there for years to come.