It has been too long since The Charlatans UK have played in DC. Too long since I have seen one of my all-time favorite bands. That is what I was thinking as I made my way up the stairs at the Black Cat on Thursday night. When I got upstairs, the Black Cat was seriously empty, so empty in fact that I was beginning to worry that The Charlatans’ forthcoming performance might suffer from the lack of energy in the room. As I easily took position right in front of the stage, I began to wonder, has it been so long since The Charlatans played DC that people have forgotten them? Slowly but surely dedicated fans of The Charlatans and Brit-pop enthusiasts began to fill in around me, but every time I glanced toward the back of the room, all I could see was emptiness. Where are all the people?
Thankfully, by the time Tim Burgess and company took the stage, the crowd had swelled to at least give the illusion that the room was as full as these Mancunian candidates for longest-running Brit-pop band deserve. The Charlatans may be at a point in their career where they don’t really care who shows up anymore though. Thursday’s wonderful show proved that be the turn-out large or small, they are putting on a great show either way.
At home in the UK, The Charlatans are still stadium-filling, festival favorites. In the US, where they never really ‘broke through’ like genre colleagues Blur or Oasis, The Charlatans have always been a specialty club act. I’ve seen them rock the 9:30 Club to adoring crowds several times. Their current tour comes after back-to-back canceled tours, and two albums that did not receive major release in the United States; in other words a 4-year absence from U.S. pop-consciousness that judging from Thursday’s turn-out may have finally marginalized them to being purely a nostalgia act.
Of course, any fan of The Charlatans that is reading this is probably cursing at the computer screen right now. I know I would be, because the case for The Charlatans’ originality and vitality as a group is especially strong when considering their new album “Who We Touch”, which drops in the US today. The new album ushers in yet another series of slight stylistic shifts that show off the versatility and enduring-nature of The Charlatans as a group. The new album is thankfully receiving major distribution in the U.S. and the band has finally physically made it to our shores to play some shows in support of it. Whether people show up for them or not remains to be seen. In DC on Thursday, a medium-sized crowd showed for what I am calling “the best show of 2010 that almost nobody went to”.