LIVE REVIEW: The Charlatans, Ride in Boston, MA (02.02.23)
If you’re GenX like me, you’re enjoying some nostalgia as many bands from the 90s celebrate album milestones. A sold-out crowd at Big Night Live in Boston happily danced away a cold winter night as The Charlatans performed their 1992 album Between 10th and 11th in its entirety and Ride played 1990’s Nowhere in its entirety. The UK bands are currently co-headlining a North American tour. Back in the 90s, the Charlatans and Ride were influential bands in the Manchester indie scene and the shoegaze scene.
Despite tragedy and loss, the Charlatans have managed to stay together and have released 13 albums since 1990. Every beat the Charlatans played transported me back 30 years. I had full recall on the lyrics too. As a personal side note, I followed the Charlatans to several shows on the East Coast–up to Montreal and down to Washington, D.C.– in 1992 and 1994. I’d been closest to keyboardist Rob Collins (RIP) and drummer Jon Brooke (RIP) back in the day. It was bittersweet to see the band not knowing whether or not I’d actually get to see any of them after the show. Thanks to my friend Jen Turpin and her husband I managed to get backstage to talk to the Charlatans. Andy Bell, the outstanding Ride guitarist, bought a few guitar pedals at their musical instrument store, Stompbox Sonic. Bassist Martin Blunt and guitarist Mark Collins remembered me after I refreshed their memory with a few old pictures. 23 and 33-year-old me would’ve been thrilled with the attention but 53-year-old me lamented lost days of her youth and contemplated what-ifs.
With a big red lit-up The Charlatans sign as a backdrop, the Charlatans took to the stage first and blazed through Between 10th and 11th sounding crisp and vibrant. Distinctive dance-y, soulsy keyboard melodies fuse with cool bass riffs, solid rhythm and fierce fuzzy guitar. The grooving intro to “Tremelo Song” sounded brilliant as singer Tim Burgess crooned and danced around. Other highlights included the reflective “The End of Everything,” an explosive and exciting version of “Weirdo,” and a comforting personal favorite “Chewing Gum Weekend” with its glorious keyboard arrangements. A spry Burgess squatted throughout most of the song, jumping up as he led the audience in singing the chorus: “I don’t remember the way it used to be.” Luckily the band was taking us right back to the way it used to be. The cherubic singer hyped the crowd throughout the night. Clapping. Waving his arms. He never stopped. He has an enviable amount of energy. He blew kisses to fans and had a few exchanges, like saying “I love you too. Nice flag, very British” to someone waving a Manchester flag.
After performing Between, the band played a bevy of other songs. I love everything they played and it’s challenging to pick favorites. Highlights included a phenomenal “Can’t Get Out of Bed,” the jangly “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over” and a rousing and also touching “North Country Boy.” After Burgess introduced the band, they closed with the perennial classic “Sproston Green” from their debut album, Some Friendly. Anyone recall the live recording where Burgess said it was the last time they were going to play it? How things change when you’re decades removed from when you first recorded a song.
With a massive illuminated Ride sign behind them, shoegaze pioneers Ride kicked off playing Nowhere in its entirety with that loud, distinctive and mesmerizing bass line of “Seagull.” The entire set by Ride was especially loud, in a good way. A supercharged, crystal clear way. “This is a different room for us to play. We haven’t played here before,” guitarist/ vocalist Mark Gardener said. Big Night Live has been open for four years and it was my first time there. Gardener and guitarist Andy Bell formed Ride when they attended art school together. They’ve released six studio albums. They broke up in 1996 but got back together in 2015.
Before playing the dreamy “In a Different Place,” Gardener said, “We’re gonna slow things down because we’re not getting any younger.” The mostly over-50 crowd of GenXers could definitely relate. Highlights were the absorbing “Polar Bear” and the popular hypnotic “Vapour Trail.” The audience remained enthralled the entire time. After playing the 70-minute album the artfully noisy band played a bunch of songs including a new song, “Monaco,” which the band performed for the first time. It went over tremendously with the rapt audience. They ended the night with a triumphant and sonorous “Leave Them All Behind.”
What a superb double bill in the perfect order. Get pumped up with the Charlatans and blissed out with Ride. The tour is currently in the Midwest and heads to the West Coast with a final show in Los Angeles.