The Coral : Newcastle University

Sail away with Hoylake's finest...

And so the good ship Coral rounds the headland, pitching and rolling into view, tie-dyed Jolly Roger flapping in the wind, manned by six souls intent on making the wildest, most chaotically brilliant music ever…

But we’re getting waaay ahead of ourselves here. So far ahead that we’re tripping over arsewards and salivating wildly. Truth is, we’re not on a cosmic armada captained by Long James Skelly, we’re in Newcastle on the first night of The Coral‘s fortnight-long victory lap tour.

Exceeding all expectations, the Hoylake sextet have smeared 2002 with their own Day-Glo brand of piracy-centric fuzzy logic. After the resounding commercial and critical success of their debut album, there was the run of festival appearances which saw the band growing in confidence and stature almost in front of our eyes. People started talking about The Coral in the same hushed tones usually reserved for the first Stone Roses album. Yes, that good.

So now it’s time for them to survey what they’ve conquered. Here, among the terminally stoned, the beerboys and the lost-looking students, The Coral have found their kingdom, a place where the national anthem isn’t by the current crop of zeitgeist-shagging garage revivalists, but rather some nifty skull’n’crossbones Cossack psych-polka. Fashion? Wrong guestlist, daaahling. Just look at bassist Paul Duffy, rocking the ‘Big-Issue-Selling-Werewolf’ look like nothing on Earth.

Not that they should be dismissed as mere scruffy stoners, for The Coral‘s songs are spiked with enough vitriol to counter their good-time image. ‘Bad Man’ has always been deranged, but tonight it borders on the violent, with James threatening one hapless audience member: “Fockin’ calm it or I’ll fockin’ have yer outside.” ‘Waiting For The Heartaches’ benefits from a dose of spit and bile that results in messy Geordie mosh action.

When the tempo calms, with ‘Shadows Fall’ and ‘Calendars And Clocks’, however, the quality of the songs is what becomes apparent. The former is a piece of brilliant pop hewn from the dark stuff of Jim Morrison’s muse, while tonight the latter sounds, quite simply, heartstopping. What they lack in raw energy, they amply make up for in fragile-headed beauty.

Then there’s the banter – the kind Oasis used to indulge in before they got all po-faced. When the crowd respond in the affirmative to Duffy’s “Who wants to hear a song called ‘Dressed Like A Nipple’?”, Skelly bites back: “Only if yer good. If not, we’ll play Cast covers.”

They bid us farewell with a distended ten-minute version of ‘Goodbye’. There’s no encore – there’s nothing left to say. It’s been a spaced-out mystery tour, taking in love, loss, darkness, light and nipples along the way. But this is only the beginning.

Barry Nicolson