Tonight, The Coral proved that their biggest stages are still yet to come...
New Brighton has never seen anything like it. Look past the tower blocks, the la-di-da seaview apartments and the skyscraping cranes straight out of Brando’s ‘On The Waterfront’ and there are five thousand people monging out in a big suburban field. That the scousers selling Rizlas are doing better business than the ones selling cans or tickets tells you everything you need to know about today’s vibe.
And over there, past the merch stall, pass the Southern Fried Chicken van that will run out of chicken before the night is through and the beer tent (that will, even more unbelievably, run out of lager) beamed in from the Cosmic scouser cosmos stands a big, blue big top. “It’s crap ain’t it?” laughs tonight’s Midsummer Night’s Scream ringmaster James Skelly, his blue cardy, checked shirt and jeans specked slightly by today’s neverending drizzle. “We wanted a stripy tent, like yellow and green or something but they gave us this big blue thing. It’s shite!”
Not that he’s got the time to be bothered by anything right now. “All our families are here and I’m on crisp and beer duty,” he explains breathlessly, whizzing off to grab his nan and granddad a lager.
It’s only right that The Coral have returned to the Wirral (across the water from Liverpool) for the biggest headline show of their two-year career. The Coral live in nearby Hoylake – their own personal Royston Vasey or ‘Llareggub’ (the fictional village in Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood – Skelly’s current favourite read). It was here where James first dreamt of ‘Simon Diamond’ and all the people off their forthcoming LP ‘Magic & Medicine’; people like heartbreaker ‘Leizah’ and suicide-committing commuter ‘Bill McCai’. Are any of them gonna be looking on tonight? “Simon Diamond might be here,” James says wide-eyed. “He’s well into it. You’ll know him when you see him – he’s the one growing out of the ground.”
There’s a history of bands from the north-west going back to play landmark hometown shows (Oasis at Maine Road, The Verve at Wigan Haigh Hall, The Stone Roses at Spike Island). When Ian Brown was asked about his feelings prior to monkeying around in front of 33,000 people in Widnes he said “I’m not performing. I’m just participating”. NME asks James if he feels a similar way. “That’s dead right that. He was on it him weren’t he?” before itching his fringe and adding self-deprecatingly “not that this is our Spike Island. This is just a load of boss bands in a tent”. £40,000 well spent then? “Yeah. All the bands are really good. As long as everyone has a good time it’ll be money well spent. But if the tent collapses and loads of people die, it’s won’t be.”
The big-top comes close to caving in a couple of times today: when The Zutons play a crazy cartoon number called ‘Zuton Fever’, during Dylan acolytes The Basement’s set, at the close of The Thrills‘ ‘Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far)’ and when The Libertines turn the “WE WANT PETE!” chants into cheers by the end of ‘Horror Show’. It doesn’t happen during The Bees because when they come onstage 5,500 blank faces looked at each other and say “WHODAHFOCKAREDEBEEZZZZZ?”
Since they started out two years ago The Coral have been a British band with the biggest potential of the lot. And tonight they whack everything up to a million and totally deliver. They ditch the wigouts that saw them labelled as wacky in favour of some amazing new songs. ‘Secret Kiss’ is Serge Gainsbourg in scallyflaps, stomper ‘Bill McCai”s lyrics about suburban boredom piss all over anything off Blur‘s ‘Parklife’ (“His wife can’t stand the sight of him/With his routine glass of Gin/She makes his lunch of processed ham/While waiting for the meter man”) and ‘Gypsy Market Blues’ is Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ for pikeys. New single ‘Pass It On’ is The Coral‘s best pop song since last year’s ‘Dreaming Of You’. What NME and 5,500 others are hearing tonight are the songs that’ll make The Coral Britain’s next great band.
So James was right earlier. This wasn’t The Coral‘s Spike Island, Maine Road or their Haigh Hall. Because, whereas those gigs were the crowning moments of those bands career’s, tonight The Coral proved that their biggest stages are still yet to come.
Imran Ahmed/Andy Willsher/Kev Power