A homecoming like no other. You’ll wish they were from your town soon
Before The Courteeners even begin tonight, gobby frontman Liam Fray has some words for the crowd: “If you’ve come here tonight to judge us,” he warns us as his band stride onstage, “then leave now.” Pressure, expectation and industry-types with folded arms, it seems, can wait for their next London gig – tonight is a strictly Mancunian celebration. With a 1,000-plus capacity, this may easily be the biggest gig The Courteeners have ever played but, on their current trajectory, it’s almost certainly their last in a hometown venue so small. Tickets sold out near-instantly months ago, the touts outside are enjoying a 400 per cent markup and the band take to the stage to emphatic “Manchester la la la” chants that underline how proud this great city is of its newest heroes.
Frankly, though, there’s an even greater cause than merely restoring local musical pride being fought for here tonight. Unless you’re the sort of twat that gets excited by nostalgic reunions, Pete stopping taking drugs or choosing how much to pay for Radiohead’s latest album, it’s pretty obvious British guitar music needs an injection of pure, thoroughbred rock’n’roll action. Quite simply, this country needs a good old-fashioned gang of cool young guitar-slingers with great hair, great clothes and even greater tunes.
Tonight, anyone who dares question that The Courteeners are anything less than that are blown out of the Academy within 30 seconds of the opening song. A force-10 rock’n’roll hurricane, ‘Aftershow’ swaggers with a riff that sounds like Noel Gallagher punching the Monkeys’ teeth out before segueing straight into ‘Cocaine Kim’ which sees them come on like a British Kings Of Leon. From here on in the tunes just keep on coming, each better than the last. ‘No You Didn’t, No You Don’t’ sounds like some great lost Smiths classic, while ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ judders along like The Strokes getting pilled up with New Order. It’s ‘What Took You So Long’, though, that’s the most promising of the bunch; a song with the sort of chorus that makes your heart do somersaults, it’s a lovelorn ode to queues at Post Offices and double-decker Stagecoach buses.
The band look as great as they sound, too – all tousled hair, effortless swagger and the magnetic air of laddish menace that another lad called Liam perfected in this town over 10 years ago. They’re a band with one eye on Manchester’s past, sure – just check the way Liam declares himself as being a “Morrissey with some strings” on ‘What Took You So Long’, cheekily references ‘Hand In Glove’ on ‘Fallowfield Hillbilly’ and brazenly nicks Oasis riffs at every turn – but also one blazing a brave new trail into the city’s musical future.
By the time they’ve torn through just-released second single ‘Acrylic’ to end their set, the entire venue is singing every word back at them, the mood is one of utter euphoria and Manchester is in the throes of complete ’Teenersmania. Trust us, by 2008 you will be too.