Live Review: The Courteeners

Huge hometown show proves they've stepped up a gear

The Courteeners warming up for Pete and co. in Manchester on Sunday. Pic: Danny North
Various local talents have fuelled a manic atmosphere at tonight's mammoth 10,000 capacity sold-out gig/monument to Mancunia, from electro danceheads The Whip to old-school anarchists Buzzcocks, but it's north Manchester's gobbiest The Courteeners who really own the hearts of this crowd. Kicking off the mayhem is fresh tune 'Will It Be This Way Forever?', taken from forthcoming new album 'Falcon'. It's somewhat clichéd lyrically, even a little fashionably morbid, but musically it captures a brooding ambience that sucks you straight in. After favourites 'Cavorting' and 'Acrylic', another new song, 'You Overdid It, Doll', is shared for the first time. It's a sultry, synthy floor-filler on which Liam Fray's voice is more melodic than on previous releases, and backed by more intricate guitar lines.

In the whirlwind of media that surrounded the release of debut album 'St Jude', it was often Fray's homely accented, linear, heartfelt lyrics with which the public could most identify. A couple of years later and the frontman is delving into experiences his fellow Mancunians will be less likely to relate to: 'Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips', for example, is a darker love song dedicated to the emotional turmoil of having a lover 6,000 miles away. Yet it still connects. Perhaps it's due in part to that odd, infamous Manc mindset of determination, cockiness and humility that makes it believable, but there's also a newly justified confidence driving The Courteeners; technically speaking, they've upped their game and it is a notable credit. They sound more like a band than ever before.

Fray is drinking water and concentrating on pleasing his hometown while his hometown is drinking beer and loving him right back. It's a match made in swagger heaven. Amid the crafty indoor cigarettes, excess beer spillage and a thick air of fast food grease, comeback single 'Cross My Heart And Hope To Fly' is chanted by the crowd like a sudden classic. It's an atmospheric moment which appears to humble the candid quartet.

Ending the night after thanking every person in the room, early anthems 'Not Nineteen Forever' and 'What Took You So Long?' are played with an ease and assurance that suggests the city's rock'n'roll days are anything but over. This time round, the Middleton lads secure the impact as a live band to back up that never-ending bravado.

Kelly Murray

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