Music review: James/The Charlatans, Hydro, Glasgow

THIS smart double bill of Mancunian indie veterans comprised one band who pre-date the Madchester scene of the early 90s and another who outlived it, the former in their comfort zone and the latter in a supporting role which didn't suit them.

James frontman Tim Booth was happy hugging, head-rubbing and  crowd-surfing
James frontman Tim Booth was happy hugging, head-rubbing and crowd-surfing

James / The Charlatans, Hydro, Glasgow ***

The Charlatans have un-locked a new creative lease of life over their last couple of albums, moving away from the kind of indie anthems that would work in such an arena setting towards a more subtle folk and country-influenced set of trippy pop tunes.

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Their opening set honoured past and present with the attendant peaks and dips in audience engagement. Singer Tim Burgess has barely aged over the last three decades but his laidback charm was unable to extend as far as his reedy voice which jarred throughout a performance which only really got into its groove with freewheeling rootsy rocker Impossible and epic set-closer Sproston Green.

James, however, embrace the arena experience, frontman Tim Booth in particular, who was fond of a foray into the front rows where there was head rubbing and hugs to be had. The band hit their stride a few songs in with Waltzing Along’s winning combination of insidious melody and sentiment and Sit Down, their Sermon on the Mount, which still has that galvanising power.

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Not all of the set had such impact but tightly wound tribal maelstrom Stutter was a treat from their back pages and they stored up some empathetic gems for the encore, including a new anthem Many Faces and the ever-lovely, cathartic Sometimes with Booth drinking in the joy.