CQAF is one of Belfast’s most well-loved festivals, continually delivering first class acts every year with the likes of musical icons Dexys, John Grant and De La Soul playing in the past, and this year was no different with Madchester legends The Charlatans headlining the marquee stage on Saturday night.
It’s been a tough few years for the band following the death of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013, but their latest album Modern Nature has been hailed as some of their best work yet, and as a huge fan of 90’s brit-pop, to say I was excited about the show would be an understatement.
The night was kicked off by Belfast’s very own Documenta whose moody, drone-pop sound was warmly received by the crowd and filled the marquee with a dreamy, relaxed vibe. They were the perfect support for the night ahead and I would highly recommend checking them out if you get a chance.
Next, the lights dimmed and The Charlatans emerged, with mushroom haired singer Tim Burgess grinning and looking cheery as ever as they began their set with organ-heavy Forever, which had everyone dancing and singing along in the most nostalgic fashion possible.
Songs like Weirdo and North Country Boy sounded as brilliant as they always have and gems from Modern Nature such as So Oh and Talking in Tones sounded fresh and original, but with that same 90’s melodic groove that the band have continually captivated us with.
Highlights for me included 1996’s guitar-heavy One To Another and Tellin’ Stories which sounded sublime and left the crowd awe-struck thanks to Burgess’ on stage energy and carefree style. He has a way of drawing his audience in and you can tell he just really wants everyone to have as good a time as he’s having.
The night drew to a close with 1990 classic The Only One I Know, and one of their newest hits Come Home Baby which sees them again, going in a slightly new direction but maintaining their distinctive Manchester sound. The band left the stage and then came back on for an encore with Sproston Green from their first album Some Friendly, much to the crowds delight.
Some of my friends and family have seen The Charlatans live and told me how brilliant they were, so my expectations were already high, but they managed to exceed them and I was really taken aback by their on stage presence. After the show I spoke to a few fans, one of which has seen them live eight times and told me they sound as great now as they ever did. What stood out to me was that far from being an obvious plug for their new material, the gig felt like more of a celebration of their 25 years in the music industry, and long may it continue. Meghan Gilleece, GiggingNI.com