REVIEW: The Charlatans + Frankie and the Heartstrings, O2 Academy, Newcastle

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
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Sunderland’s own Frankie and the Heartstrings provided support as indie-rock icons The Charlatans entertained on their latest visit to Newcastle.

Frankie Francis and the band are ever-present across the nationwide run of nine dates, and played tracks from 2015 album Decency as well as their new Christmas song with Edwyn Collins.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Jokingly billing themselves as from “Tyne and Wear”, they provided their usual spirited live performance, with the added enhancement of brass accompaniment courtesy of James Hewitson from local band Kingsley Chapman and the Murder.

This was despite a stubborn crowd, who remained shushed throughout their set, even when encouraged by Frankie to get involved with the singalong elements of signature track Hunger or to cheer for The Charlatans.

Such lukewarm reply is surprising close to home turf, but perhaps less so from The Charlatans’ fan base, and they’re sure to play to more gracious crowds on their recently announced 2016 headline tour.

Frankie and the Heartstrings will visit Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol and London, as well as returning to The Cluny in Newcastle on March 10, where they launched their latest album to great acclaim in July.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans are riding the high of their well-received first studio album in five years, Modern Nature, described by some critics as one of the best of their 26-year career.

It was recorded under the cloud of the death of Jon Brookes, their drummer and percussionist since 1989, and vocalist Tim Burgess said they aimed to record songs that made them “happy”.

The band took to the stage following a topical, Star Wars-themed scrolling intro, listing all the dates on the current tour.

An eye-catching, bright blonde Tim Burgess then stopped to photograph the crowd on his iPhone, before getting down to the business of performing a mixed set of material from Modern Nature and classics from their association with the Madchester scene of British indie’s heyday.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Tim was teased at the peak of The Charlatans’ popularity for his brooding demeanour, including famously by comedian Rob Newman, but he’s a much happier - if still melancholy - presence today.

All their biggest hits, including The Only One I Know and One To Another, were here, although rarely for such shows the new material received an equally-strong response.

The sound within the O2 Academy felt a little bit muddy, lacking the sort of clarity between instruments you might expect at such a large production, although whether this was by fault or by design can only be speculated upon.

But all-in-all, it was a solid set, fitting for the venue’s final major show of the year.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Charlatans performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frankie and the Heartstrings at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.