Live review: The Courteeners

Manchester Ruby Lounge, Tuesday, February 16

Danny North
Pic: Danny North
There are gigs that are much less about the music and more about the moment; that timeless convergence of band, fans and fate. And without those shows – y’know, the Libs’ 984th impromptu Rhythm Factory reformation, Spike Island, Oasis at Maine Ro… zzz – lazy music hacks would have no way of opening a review of a homecoming for a vaguely important band. Thankfully, those clichés have absolutely no place here because this is NOT one of those gigs. “We’re not meant to be playing dingy clubs,” Liam Fray said in these very pages a few weeks back. “We’re ready to step it up a level.”

And he’s right. Tonight’s instantly sold-out sweatpit show is certainly not for The Courteeners’ own benefit. But while “one for the fans” is embarrassing marketing rhetoric, the sort of bollocks mobile phone companies spout after blowing half their annual multi-platform budget on getting some underwhelming shitheap like White Lies to play in someone’s living room, tonight genuinely feels like Liam and co are giving something back.

Watching the four-piece squeeze on to the tiny stage and instantly transform the room into a front-to-back riot, it’s like being transported back three years to when The Courteeners were tearing through Manchester’s mid-size stages and few people south of Stockport had a clue about it. Consequently, it’s tunes from their debut album ‘St Jude’ that work best here – ‘Cavorting’ (Oasis getting gakked up with The Smiths), ‘No You Didn’t, No You Don’t’ (Oasis getting pissed up with The Smiths), ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ (The Libs and Oas… oh, you get the picture) predictably send the crowd into a frenzy. They also play a fair smattering of their new songs – and the way the fans sing back the heart-swelling words of ‘Sycophant’ and ‘The Opener’ belies the fact they’re not even released for another five days – but tonight is like trying to contain ‘Falcon’ in a cheap pet shop birdcage.

The band already have designs on slaying stadiums. “We’ll see you at Old Trafford,” Liam promises, before closer ‘What Took You So Long?’. And only a fool would bet against them; it won’t be long before The Courteeners have
an entry of their own in the lazy music hack’s homecoming handbook.

Rick Martin

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