Brixton Academy – 19th December

“I don’t like this band,” the security guard at Brixton Academy leans in to confess, conspiratorially. “Didn’t take to them at Glastonbury…” For him, tonight there will be plenty of distractions to take his mind off what’s happening on stage. Every ten minutes, another grown man, definitely old enough to know better, will chuck himself headfirst over the front barriers, demanding his attention.

For the rest of us, there’s plenty to entertain happening on the stage itself. It’s not surprising that we’re all acting like teenagers at our first gig either, since The Charlatans are busy flicking the switch that turns you into a 15 year old dancing around your bedroom. It helps that they play ‘Weirdo’ and ‘North Country Boy’ so early in their set, obviously, but the boys from Northwich aren’t here just to relive former glories. Twelfth studio album, Modern Nature, is riding high in the obligatory End Of Year listicles, and Tim Burgess Of Twitter is clearly in a party mood.

We’ve all been warmed up pretty nicely by support acts Frankie and The Heartstrings, and the ever brilliant Echo & The Bunnymen – serious question; did they need to split up for a decade so we would reappraise them? Surely if you’ve written ‘The Killing Moon’ alone, you shouldn’t be anyone’s support act? Burgess is proving his band’s top billing though, buoying up a crowd who need little encouragement. He dances around at the front of the Brixton stage like a man possessed, chucking the wig that someone’s thrown at him right back at them, taking photos of the crowd which you know will be on the internet before they’ve so much as flicked the house lights back on.

And it’s testament to the new record that ‘So Oh’ and ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ are as rapturously received as the likes of ‘Tellin’ Stories’ and ‘One To Another’, each causing another middle aged spread to dive headfirst into the photo pit. But when they belt out ‘The Only One I Know’, with its signature keyboard riff, so immediately identifiable that we all forget that it was pilfered from Deep Purple’s ‘Hush’, the room goes off. 1990 never sounded so good (except, obviously, this is Brixton and the sound is, as is often the case here, quite terrible).

Our favourite security guard is still unconvinced though, even the inevitable encore of ‘Sproston Green’ hasn’t changed his mind – although it’s almost certainly not been helped by having to check that tonight’s crowdsurfers can work out how many fingers he’s holding up before he lets them get back to the wife and kids. Still, he’s alright, he grins as he stuffs an unrequested (but gratefully received) set list into our hands, because it’s UB40 tomorrow, and that’s going to be “off the scale…”

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