Over the last decade, few major rock bands have suffered the level of turmoil that’s been visited upon the Charlatans. Numerous ill-timed personnel changes, myriad lawsuits, the accidental death of a key member and criminal charges have all tested the resolve of the Manchester, England, combo.
They even had to tack “UK” onto their name, on the eve of their first U.S. tour in 1991, in deference to a long-forgotten ’60s Bay Area outfit that claimed the name.
But as evidenced by the Charlatans’ show at the sold-out Palace on Monday, enduring and ultimately overcoming all the strife has resulted in a musical force to be reckoned with, proving again that adversity is just about the best thing that can happen to a promising rock band.
Throbbing bass and surging Hammond organ were employed at show’s start during the drawn-out opening of “Forever,” the tour de force lead track on the Charlatans’ latest album, “Us and Us Alone” (MCA), setting a dramatic and atmospheric tone that would carry throughout the show.
Intense and smoldering singer Tom Burgess, 33, fighting a sore throat all night, sang passionately of redemption and strength of constitution; he also made repeated, effective references to angels and “beautiful friends.”
Burgess, who’s blessed with a mouth dominated by thick singer’s lips similar to Mick Jagger’s, tightly grasped his mike stand during the bluesy “A House Is Not a Home” and seemed to conjure the words “Come see me, you can heal me” straight up from the depths of his soul.
His four bandmates reinforced the earnest mood with a potent mix of Rolling Stones-inspired swagger and Radiohead-flavored ardor, with just the right supplementary touch of dance rhythms.
The sound was highlighted by the skillful performance of new keyboard player Tony Rogers and the Keith Richards-inspired licks of guitarist Mark Collins.
The Charlatans appear to have finally cast aside thoughts of world domination, or even their long-sought U.S. commercial breakthrough, and have instead settled down to the business of making challenging music and performing engrossing concerts such as this one — a remarkable turnaround for a band whose early struggles pointed only to unrealized potential.