“It’s like a Champions League final that you’ve already won,” says Liam Fray. On Friday (June 5), The Courteeners play the gig the gig of their lives at Heaton Park, Manchester, and the ever-confident Fray is betraying no sign of nerves: “All we’ve got to do is put our boots on and lift the trophy.”
As the underdogs of British rock who fought their way to the top through a stone wall of media indifference, many said The Courteeners would never play an event-gig of this magnitude. Yet all 25,000 tickets sold out in 40 minutes, and according to Fray they could have sold “a shitload more, but I like the idea of ramming it, then there’s demand on the day to get in. It feels like the biggest victory ever. We’re almost underground, if you like. It feels like we’re the biggest underground band in the world. We can do this big gig, but if you went down the street and asked ‘Have you heard of The Courteeners?’ loads of people would say ‘No, we haven’t got a clue!’.” What’s his response to the sceptics bewildered that they’re playing such a huge show? “I ask them to come down – I’ll get them a ticket if they want one.”
Heaton Park is “just down the road from where we grew up”, with Liam drawing comparisons to The Stone Roses at Spike Island and Oasis at Maine Road, in that the show is as much about the fans as the band.
“We’ve done this together with our fans from the start, so for that reason it’s the big one for them more than for us. They can get a bit of a bashing from the press so I think they feel like it’s an us-and-them thing. It’s their night, and they deserve it almost more than us.”
Enthusiastic about the resurgence of guitar rock, Liam hand-picked the support acts: Peace, Bipolar Sunshine and Stockport’s Blossoms. Yet he remains tight-lipped about any possible special guests: “I’m not sure if Morrissey is coming down… he’s had his invite but I don’t know if he can handle the mud.”
What about a duet with Labour party leadership contender Andy Burnham, who has been tweeting Courteeners lyrics of late? “It’s gone mental!” Liam laughs, “we’ve had so many tweets about it. He gets my vote, he looks good in a suit and he seems like a nice bloke. I actually met him a couple of years ago and he seems like a down-to-earth guy, which is what people have been missing. I think people feel alienated by what’s going on, so it’s nice that people have someone they like and have an affiliation with. He’s tweeting a band that feels the same way – we feel like we represent those kids.”
With drummer Michael Campbell now fully match-fit after breaking his arm earlier this year, the Courteeners are set to blow the following day’s Parklife festival clean out of the Heaton Park. “I feel sorry for Parklife,” Liam jokes. “Somebody said to me, ‘You’ve got to try and get in the VIP Parklife section’. I said ‘There won’t be a Parklife VIP, it’ll be destroyed’.”