When The Courteeners omitted Manchester from their last touring run in 2014, it pointed to plans for a homecoming event for the quartet, which, when announced, reportedly sold out in less than an hour. The venue has previously hosted such local luminaries as Oasis and The Stone Roses, an indicator perhaps of the mantle that Liam Fray and company are now taking on.
Not that it turns out that they need it, but The Courteeners arrive on stage on the front foot after an evening of glorious sunshine - a guaranteed way to set a positive mood at any outdoor gig. They launch into their bona fide party starter 'Are You In Love With A Notion?', and like 'How Good It Was', it is clear that the song will be part of their shows for years to come. Unfortunately it is also evident that the PA system could do with turning up a few notches as the volume far from blows you away, meaning what little conversation there is with the crowd gets lost in the Manchester night. Nonetheless, those in attendance are clearly enjoying themselves, particularly when the band visits earlier material such as 'Fallowfield Hillbilly' and 'Cavorting'. Particularly rapturous receptions are given to 'Sycophant' and 'Bide Your Time', where flares are set off for the umpteenth time - an action that can't be condoned due to safety risks, but there is no denying the additional visual impact they provide to a fevered atmosphere.
Perhaps sensing the need for a breather for band and fans, a solo acoustic couplet including 'Acrylic' ensues, but even with Fray being an engaging presence it doesn't quite work during what should be a mass celebration. The momentum is more than recovered with the likes of 'Aftershow' and the established closing anthems of 'Not Nineteen Forever' and 'What Took You So Long?', but there is a feeling of what should be a great night doesn't get above being a very good night. Sound preferences aside, the omitting of singles and fan favourites such as 'You Overdid It Doll' and 'Smiths Disco' cannot be overlooked. At a running time of less than two hours and with the inclusion of 'Beautiful Head' and 'Yesterday, Today And Probably Tomorrow', it hasn't been the lengthiest set comprised of essential Courteeners. However it should be noted that the band played well and that Fray has the crowd in his hands - the quartet are not out of place headlining a gig of this size and it would be no surprise for them to be doing so for years to come.
Continue reading: The Courteeners - Heaton Park, Manchester - 5th June 2015 Live Review
Tonight's show comes in the middle of a headline tour for The Courteeners' fourth record, which hit the top three when released in the summer. The lack of a hometown date on the schedule means an unusually high proportion of the audience are Mancunians, which, mixed with the natives, results in a charged atmosphere even before the band hit the stage.
Like the album the tour is supporting, tonight opens with 'White Horses' - and the result is a similarly solid, if unspectacular, start. 'How Good It Was' immediately changes this and the room is literally bouncing, with the track getting a reception up there with beloved older songs such as 'Cavorting' which follows it up. There is a genuine euphoria throughout the crowd and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the hardcore fans account for the vast majority present. This is best exemplified later in the solo acoustic section of the set (where Liam Fray's vocals impress minus thunderous chords and thumping rhythms) where the crowd chant for - and get - a rendition of b-side 'Smith's Disco'. It is in fact the second non-album track to be performed and 'Sunflower' also gets crowd participation, though on a lower scale. Given that the band don't perform all their singles, with the majority of the set lifted from their debut and current releases, it is both a brave choice for the performers and a rewarding choice for clearly fanatical followers.
Seemingly getting a live debut, 'International' is performed in a stripped-down manner and works well, whilst 'Please Don't' gets the same treatment and remains a huge crowd sing-a-long after all these years. The closing trio of 'Next Time You Call', 'Not Nineteen Forever' and 'What Took You So Long?' crank up the volume once more, with the latter two in particular getting the sort of reaction that makes them obvious festival favourites. Fray alludes to shows in Manchester next year and, on tonight's evidence, they could be a highlight of the summer - the quartet put in an impressive performance and, combined with their fans energy, you can't fail to be swept along.
Continue reading: The Courteeners - O2 Academy Leeds 11th November 2014 Live Review
Now on their fourth album in six years and hot on the heels of last year's 'Anna', you certainly can't accuse Manchester's The Courteeners of resting on their laurels. With the festival season out of the way, the band will headline a UK tour from the end of October, whilst frontman Liam Fray has promised their hometown something special next year.
Whilst their debut saw them become a fixture of indie-discos, the indication of their last release, 'Concrete Love' saw the quartet aim for the arenas. It is a direction cemented by the crunching riffs of opener 'White Horses', 'Next Time You Call' and the delectable 'Saboteur'. However, what is gained in sonic boom is lost from the intricacy of Fray's lyrics, arguably the band's greatest asset and something that has previously drawn praise from Morrissey. Thankfully, we get a decent number of tracks that place Fray's words and voice at the forefront of proceedings - the first of which, 'Small Bones', sees him about as romantic as he's ever been. Whilst Alex Turner was originally labelled by some as the voice of a generation, Fray remains able to put to song the experiences of the man in the street; 'Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet' effortlessly describes the situation where you can see a friend being used by a partner who clearly has no devotion to her. There's certainly no questioning the devotion of the band to their craft, as this is a catchy number that swoons with the assistance of effectively employed strings.
More often than not, the band returns to a grander sound that underlines an ambition to broaden their reach. 'International' doesn't quite take off, but features the memorable couplet "You wanna talk about cocky/It's like Muhammed Ali tag-teamed with Rocky". 'How Good It Was' is an upbeat radio anthem that does a job, but lacks the content expected of Fray's high standards, while 'Summer' is a surprising turn from leftfield. Driven on a bass riff and overlaid with acoustic guitar, it is an appropriately titled song with a breezy feel and laidback hook that is infectious after a couple of listens. Crucially for The Courteeners, it is also an indication that they've yet to become creatively bankrupt and that their next release should see some development. For the moment though, this is their most consistent release to date and is listenable throughout, even if it's not always the band at their very best.
Continue reading: The Courteeners - Concrete Love Album Review