When the original Tim Burgess ‘Islington Assembly Hall’ gig was postponed back in October the reasons were understandable. The Charlatans lead singer had not only lost a band member but a good friend in Jon Brookes, and the opportunity to remember his life, with a musical celebration at the Royal Albert Hall (which clashed with the original Islington gig) was a beautiful and respectful thing to do.
Fast forward two months and we’re all back for the re-scheduled show though. It’s Christmas and Burgess and his band are in a festive mood.
Burgess appeared soon after … mop haired, carrying a music stand with his set list and lyric’s clutched under his arm. He announced that “I was worrying all day about what to wear tonight and then thought sod it I’ll just wear what I’ve got on”. That, the occasional glances to the lyric sheet and the on-off confusion between Burgess and the band was a real eye opener for us who pay to view, but it was great to see the workings of a live set like this and certainly not a distraction. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t have seen a more laid-back gig in 2013. At one point an audience member actually counted the band in with a “2-3-4”. It was an extremely up close and personal experience that I’m not even sure Burgess realised he was giving us. It was certainly not the type of experience you would get at an O2 Arena, Brixton Academy etc. This was a case of an artist and venue (Islington Assembly Hall) combining to produce a very memorable, almost horizontal, experience.
‘The Graduate’, ‘Hours’ and the fantastic ‘A Case for Vinyl’ where a triumph. Burgess even gave us a cut-back version of ‘The Only One I Know’ but for me this didn’t work. I wanted the thumping drums and organ, of which we were denied. Apart from this the set was solid though. The highlight was a fantastic version of Arthur Russell’s ‘I Couldn’t Say it to Your Face’, which many were no doubt downloading the second they left the venue.
But it’s Christmas and Burgess wasn’t going to let the occasion pass. ‘Carol of the Bells’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ were part of a welcomed encore that also contained the albums stand-out track ‘White’.
Burgess and his band deserve a large pat on the back for tonight’s show. In a industry where artists seem to be ever-more unapproachable how nice it was to experience one who clearly enjoys performing, was in no rush to get away and even tried to sell us DVD’s half way through his set. Quite easily one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve attended this year.
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