Charlie Simpson at The Old Market review

Charlie Simpson is always going to be an individual in today’s music scene who will come with some stigma attached to him. Whether he’ll ever be able to loose the ‘Charlie from Busted’ moniker is an open-ended argument, but he’s certainly done his best to move on and a dedicated fan base has moved on with him.

Fightstar couldn’t have been much further removed from Busted if they tried, and Charlie’s solo offering is again a step in a new direction. From shouty post-emo reminiscent of bands like Deftones and Funeral For A Friend, to chart accessible country tinged folk more similar to the ilk of Mumford and Sons or Ben Howard, he seems to have a good knack for reinventing himself, which is more than can be said for the other two fallen brothers of his; McBusted anyone?

This tour comes after the release of his second solo attempt, Long Road Home, and has brought a sold out crowd to The Old Market tonight, for which Charlie looks truly grateful throughout.

The opener is Comets, his most recent single from the tail end of last year, and instantly the crowd are absorbed and a gentle head bob ensues across the room. He moves straight onto his first single Down Down Down and it’s this moment that he truly has everyone in the palm of his hands. With an instant sing-along on the ohwohwoh’s the following applause is laced with screams of ‘I love you Charlie’, not just from his, you would have to assume, new young girl fan base, but a large amount of late twenties/early thirties males that seemed to make up the bulk of the audience. The Fightstar fans have followed his new direction with him.

One of the main talking points in the pub following the show will have been his cover of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek. He opted to keep her auto-tune/ reverby effect on his vocals and, in my opinion, it worked for him. If you didn’t know the original, as it seemed a few people didn’t, you might wonder what he was doing and why he didn’t just sing it naturally.

He asked for audience participation for Cemetery, being able to get a crowd to sing the word ‘smithereens’ at the top of their voices may not be an easy task for some, but somehow he pulls it off with ease. With the high ceiling and exposed rafters of The Old Market, there’s almost a gospel feel about his performance and the accompanying harmonies from his two backing musicians; haunting, but in a nice way.

There’s a nod to his old friends in the crowd who, in his own words, were in his first shit band, before going into Would You Love Me Any Less. There’s a borderline shout towards the end of this song that tells of some real heartbreak and the whole crowd could feel that he meant it. Her loss, there’s plenty of screaming girls, and guys, that would take him home for a shoulder to cry on tonight.

For the finale, he sets into the opening line of Farmer and His Gun, before bursting out laughing and admitting that he’d made a mistake. The second attempt calls for the final sing-along of the night and his smile shows how overjoyed he clearly is to be on that stage performing for us all.

The whole room leaves totally won over with a big smile on their face. All apart from the one guy still shouting for him to play Air Hostess. Nearly there Charlie, nearly.

Charlie Simpson’s 2nd solo album “Long Road Home” is out now.

Words and image by Tom Ricards

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