2016 closed in style last night with an exhibition of two bands that would justify playing the Echo Arena alone, never mind together. Billed as a double-header more than a headline and support, The a Charlatans and James provided an entourage of nostalgia and new sounds to a packed venue.
It would be the blonde bob of Tim Burgess that appeared first, towards 8 o’clock the screech of keyboard for Weirdo asserted itself onto the evening. Then North Country Boy, and several songs spanning their lengthy career including Trouble Understanding and So Oh from their latest release, Modern Nature.
It was always going to be a unique night, and Tim Booth and Andy Diagram of James joined The Charlatans on stage to cover Rescue from Liverpool band Echo and The Bunnymen. This was the penultimate song before Sproston Green, always popular and always bittersweet, after which it felt like a single gig had finished, yet like having plenty turkey left over for Boxing Day the best was yet to come, Tim Booth swayed on stage to Waltzing Along, the first of 19 songs.
Ring The Bells and Moving On came fourth and fifth, the latter completely encapsulating, the personal story of Booth losing his mother and penning the first single from 2014’s La Petite Mort album. The best reaction came in response to Born of Frustration which was split from Getting Away With It by Dear John.
A small orchestra on stage, the sound from the band spans all around the arena, even more so when Booth serenades the seating section to the left of stage, all in view of it now quite sure where to focus their Attention.
The break before the encore was nothing short of a pause for breath, swiftly back on stage to fit four more songs in, and spectacularly beginning with Just Like Fred Astaire. Of course Tim Burgess and Mark Collins had waited around, they joined James for Laid, very special. Sometimes and Nothing But Love ended proceedings before a full band bow to the arena which had danced with them since the beginning of the night.
This was completely unique, an real opportunity to see two bands who seem to refuse to fade out, the omission of Sit Down speaks volumes of the quality of James’ work in particular, strength in depth indeed. The combination of these two bands was incredibly memorable.