My Saturday night at Brixton Academy had, in fact, two purposes: first, to enjoy Britpop and indie-rock veterans The Charlatans – fronted by songwriter and industry polymath Tim Burgess – touring 2017’s thirteenth full length Different Days, and second, to catch support act and latest signing to Tim’s label O Genesis recordings, Average Sex.

Stepping up first, five-piece Average Sex assumed a command of the stage that left me stunned to think that they had formed just one year ago. Vocalist Laetitia Bocquet gave an unrelenting performance full of gleefully unhinged, youthful exuberance throughout their raucous nine-song set. Her unique brand of francophone-tinged vocals combines the melodic approach of Alvvays’s Molly Rankin with the frenetic yelps and shouts you’d more likely find in material from groups like Hinds. Meanwhile, the rest of the band (guitarist/backing vocalist Sam O’Donovan, guitarist Louise Earwaker, bassist Jamie Graeme and drummer Finnigan Kidd – formerly of Hatcham Social), brimmed with a buoyant yet laissez-faire personality, serving up dynamics that could land anywhere on a spectrum from Beach Boys to The Ramones. Set highlights include the sugary harmonies during latest single and 50s summer rock’n’roll anthem ‘Ice Cream’, Laetitia Bocquet’s frenzied antics during ‘We’re Done’, and the slacker-rock chorus of ‘Ugly Strangers’ (this really got the crowd moving). In short, I had a lot of fun and this all left me very excited to see what Average Sex have planned for us in future.

A second support set ensued from psych-rockers Temples, but was unfortunately cut short for reasons known only to the band (singer James Bagshaw said it was a story for another time). This was no great tragedy in the grand scheme of things, however, as it left The Charlatans with time to perform a marathon 23-song set that lasted at least two hours. On a side note, as a huge fan of Twin Peaks (the TV show), I was delighted to notice them walk onstage to David Lynch’s gritty dive bar ballad ‘The Pink Room’ playing on the front of house monitors. Good start, and they weren’t even playing yet. Then, Tim Burgess and co. launched into a set that featured offerings from eight of their albums, spanning their three-decade career with tracks such as 1990’s ‘Sproston Green’ and ‘The Only One I Know’, 1992’s ‘Weirdo’, 1999’s harmonica ballad ‘Senses’, all the way to more recent entries like 2015’s ‘So Oh’ as well as a handful of songs from their new record. Hearing all the songs weaved into one long set like this, one thing really struck me: in an age where a lot of bands (often wisely) drastically alter their sound from album to album, The Charlatans have boldly forged their own path by instead focusing on perfecting more subtle variations upon their signature classic rock and roll sound. I’d even go as far to suggest that Spoon might represent the American counterpart to this approach (and they do it very well).

That said, I do think The Charlatans’ most recent record, Different Days, has a more contemporary quality that gives it a superior edge to much of their other output in the last decade (I love the rolling textures of album opener ‘Hey Sunrise’, which was also probably the set highlight for me). Yet this didn’t prevent these songs from fitting perfectly alongside the band’s more vintage compositions. ‘Weirdo’ still had the entire audience (and I mean the whole of Brixton Academy – from the front to the very back) dancing wildly. Honestly, I was actually pretty shocked because I had no idea The Charlatans still had such a feverish following. I think I underestimated the appeal of a characteristic that their music retains to this day: a sort of quintessentially British approach to psychedelia-tinged rock’n’roll influenced by Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and more traditional groups like The Rolling Stones.

However, attributing the level of adoration they received from the crowd solely to that theory would be a dire disservice to Tim Burgess as a frontman. Tim recently turned fifty, but he still doesn’t look like he’s aged past twenty five, and for the full two hours he continuously bounded from one end of the stage to the other, engaging and joking with fans non-verbally during songs. He never stopped bouncing, with hands high in the air, to the music his band was churning out. Not once conceding to fatigue, always a grin on his face, capped with a charming blond bowl of hair like the bulb of a lighthouse, he was a performer truly committed to his audience.

I’m not someone deeply familiar with The Charlatans’ discography (I know songs scattered across the records, and I like Tim’s solo work), but I have to say one of the things I enjoyed the most about this show was that everyone around me was clearly very familiar with the material, and not at all afraid to show it. There’s something enchanting about watching an audience of die-hard fans who are exactly where they want to be. It’s a heart-warming experience that re-affirmed my belief that live music is something very special and very personal. It brings together great constellations of human experience in one happy moment – and yesterday, it created a moment where I could vicariously feel the joy of these people around me as if I too was seeing my favourite band in the world and that was all that mattered on this earth.

Setlist:

Not Forgotten
Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over
So Oh
Over Again
Weirdo
Talking In Tones
Emilie
One to Another
Different Days
Future Tense
Plastic Machinery
Senses
Spinning Out
Hey Sunrise
North Country Boy
Tellin’ Stories
Come Home Baby
Love Is The Key
Over Rising
The Only One I Know
Let the Good Times Be Never Ending
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There Will Be Chances
Sproston Green