Review by Scott StegengaIt was a night for beginners and experts. How do you capture an audience, keep them in a trance and eventually have them asking for more? Such was the case when the veteran Brit-band The Charlatans UK came to Chicago with 'the next big thing' - UK newcomers Starsailor.
Photos by Barry Brecheisen
Big credit goes to Starsailor since drummer Ben Byrne had been suffering from on-and-off again tendinitis in his left hand since the beginning of this US tour. The set opened with baby-faced singer James Walsh pulling out three acoustic numbers "Coming Down," "Alcoholic" and the Neil Young song "Harvest Moon" and performing them with as much haunting passion as if the full band was behind him. As the rest of the band entered for the remainder of the set, James made a few comments about The Strokes ("Last night I had a dream and the Strokes weren't in it, but I had one last night and they were in kilts"). The rest of the performance was as good as a fresh-faced band could play. While most of the people in attendance were there for the Charlatans, Starsailor played their hearts (and hands) out to the crowd and proved they were a band who have mighty big potential. The songs ranged from the Pink Floyd-ish "Love is Here" to a mellower version of "Tie Up My Hands" and closing with their anthem "Good Souls." Starsailor aptly proved themselves more than just a band with beginners luck. As the rest of the crowd was filing in to catch the Charlatans, they were given a sweet treat of Brit-pop yet to come.
The Charlatans were there to show off their unique expertise which has cemented their rock-solid fan base for over 10 years. Their recent funk-inspired album Wonderland showed LA native Tim Burgess at his Prince-ly best. Opening their 80-minute set with Tim's funky falsetto on "Love is The Key" and the swishy "Judas," the band played their classic songs spanning their career as well as pulling out a few surprises. Tim sang and rang his cowbell as Tony Rodgers pumped away at the organ and played songs ranging from the Dylan-esque "Impossible" to the Chemical-Brothers produced tune "One to Another" as well as the standards "North Country Boy" and "Here Comes a Soul Saver." The biggest surprise for most hardcore fans was the rarely played career-breaking single "The Only One I Know" which has become as synonymous as Radiohead's "Creep" or Zeppelin"s "Stairway to Heaven." To keep the fans begging for more, the encore closed with the epic tunes "Forever" and "Sproston Green."
Concerts like this need to happen more often. You have the veteran band pulling in the newcomer to show them a few pointers and in turn learning something themselves. The Charlatans have a huge Chicago following and are proud to admit that they love playing here as much as possible while Starsailor, having been here once before on a December 2001 mini-tour, definitely boarded a few more fans on their ship as well.
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