The Courteeners,
Manchester Arena
7th December 2012

Ahead of the release of their third album ‘ANNA’, The Courteeners stage a massive homecoming concert in Manchester. Fergal Kinney reports on the sold out gig at Manchester Arena. All photo’s Hayley Taylor.

“I’ve been away, I’ve been working but now I’m back…”

It’s the first Friday of December and at Manchester’s largest indoor venue the flattened North Manchester vowels of Liam Fray’s signature croon are being rendered inaudible by the 17 000 strong audience. The venue isn’t just sold out, it’s bursting at the seams, and this isn’t some nostalgia band or manufactured pop event – it’s a modest four piece guitar band who were born a stones throw away from the Arena itself.

Since the release of their debut ‘St Jude’, the Courteeners have played their hometown every year at Christmas and despite time away from the limelight this year is no exception. By the time their new album ‘ANNA’ is out in February, it will mark three years since the release of their last album ‘Falcon’, and it’s testament to the loyalty of their audience that they’ve weathered such a wait in a music world so dominated and driven by trends. At last year’s hometown Christmas gigs, the Apollo was treated to a taste of what was at the time being recorded for the new album, and tonight gives a real sense of a new album ready and rattling against the bars.

Tonight’s set begins with ‘The Opener’; the first track on 2010’s ‘Falcon’ and a self professed love letter to Manchester. Many fans from London to Glasgow have made the journey for tonight’s gig, and ‘The Opener’s sentiment of missing your hometown means as much to them as the Manchester natives in the audience. Guitar riffs to album tracks and even b-sides are sang back with the same rapturous reverence as singles, and the spectacle of the audience in simultaneous frenzy during ‘Cavorting’ is a sight seldom witnessed. Much of debut album ‘St Jude’ is performed tonight, and it’s clear how much that record means to a lot of the audience from the ferocious ‘If It Wasn’t for Me’ to the Ronettes via Shudehill Bus Interchange tale of ex-girlfriends ‘Please Don’t’. Whilst the band is clearly led by the songwriting of Liam Fray, as a band the time away in the studio seems to have proved beneficial to regrouping them as a unit with energy and enthusiasm high across the Courteeners.

In the five years since the Courteeners first hit national level, they’ve found themselves in amongst a handful of groups who are able to really grow and succeed amongst the double whammy of recession and the advent of illegal downloading. Bands can’t operate in a vacuum, something made strikingly clear by the Courteeners recent scheduling of a warm up gig at Darlington Hub only to find the venue forced into closing down just weeks before the planned event. Closing venues in towns matters much more than it does in cities; vital lifelines to the intoxicating world of music can be severed with an effect not to be understated. Consequently the Darlington gig was transferred at the eleventh hour to Middlesbrough Town Hall – a town itself struggling with library closures and crippling cuts – delivering a storming gig with the audience making the very most of the grandiose theatre’s sprung dancefloor.

The four new songs aired tonight suggest 2013 should be another good year for the band. ‘Push Yourself’ marries a singalong chorus to the angular disco guitars of Franz Ferdinand and hints at a more eclectic and contemporary sound for next year’s new album ‘ANNA’. ‘Money’ on the other hand, one of four new tracks debuted tonight, is a foray into early Kings of Leon style dirty rock’n’roll only previously hinted at with St Jude’s ‘Kings of the New Road’. The best received new material of the night is ‘Welcome to the Rave’ and forthcoming single ‘Lose Control’, with large sections of the audience already knowing the words.

The press attention to the Courteeners has always been confused – the music press doesn’t much like to celebrate bands it didn’t anoint in the first place – but this is a band that matters to audiences up and down the UK. There’s a definite reciprocated appreciation between the Courteeners and their audience, something in what the Courteeners do works at an intimate level even in larger spaces like the Manchester Arena. This is only heightened by Liam Fray’s mid set excursion to a small stage in the centre of the standing area to perform a short solo set comprising of album tracks ‘Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow’, ‘How Come’ and ‘The Rest of the World Has Gone Home’. Like the songs of Ray Davies, these are songs that neglect general overarching sentiments and statements for stories of small scale incidents, relationships and characters that manage to work not in spite of this but because of this on the bigger stage. By the time the band return for the encore, something special has already happened tonight.

Whilst ‘Take Over the World’ seems almost too easy for these kind of venues, the audience in ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ is a spectacle in itself, made all the better by the lighting of a flare in the audience – though one suspects the Arena stewards felt differently. Tonight is one of those rare gigs that feels a complete event for those involved, and a triumph for the Courteeners ahead of the release of their third album.

The Courteneers website can be found here. They Are also on Facebook & Twitter.

We have included some extra photo’s from the show taken by Hayley Taylor which you can see below the byline.

All words by Fergal Kinney & all photo’s © Hayley Taylor. More of Fergal’s articles on Louder Than War can be read here.

 

 

NEW SINGLE ‘LOSE CONTROL’ RELEASED ON 28TH JANUARY

RELEASE THIRD ALBUM ‘ANNA’ ON 4TH FEBRUARY

Courteeners have announced an 18-date UK tour for February and March 2013, which will be their biggest UK tour yet culminating with a headline show at O2 Academy Brixton on Saturday 16th March.

Last month, the band announced that they will release their new album ‘ANNA’ on 4th February which will be preceded by new single ‘Lose Control’ on 28th January, both released through V2. Zane Lowe last night gave fans the first exclusive listen to ‘Lose Control’ which can be downloaded now from – bit.ly/CourteenersLoseControl and you can listen to a teaser of the track here – Courteeners Lose Control [teaser].

‘Lose Control’ opens with an addictive hook followed by Liam’s distinctive vocals which then catapult into a huge chorus of drums and melody. It the perfect introduction to the new sound of the band’s third album.

It has been two years since Courteeners last album ‘Falcon’, which charted at #6 and followed the bands #4 debut album ‘St. Jude’. The band recorded and produced the album in Manchester at 80 Hertz Studios with producer Joe Cross (Hurts) and last Friday, performed new tracks from the album at a sold out homecoming show at the 17,000 capacity Manchester Arena.

Courteeners will be performing as part of XFM’s Winter Wonderland at O2 Academy Brixton on 17th December. Full February and March tour dates are as follows –

February:
Thu 21st Nottingham Rock City
Fri 22nd Leeds O2 Academy
Sat 23rd Birmingham O2 Academy
Mon 25th Liverpool O2 Academy
Tue 26th Dundee Fat Sams
Thu 28th Inverness Ironworks

March:
Fri 1st Glasgow O2 Academy
Sat 2nd Edinburgh Picture House
Mon 4th Portsmouth Pyramids Centre
Tue 5th Cambridge Junction
Thu 7th Bristol O2 Academy
Fri 8th Blackpool Empress Ballroom
Sat 9th Oxford O2 Academy
Mon 11th Leicester O2 Academy
Tue 12th Cardiff University Solus
Thu 14th Newcastle O2 Academy
Fri 15th Sheffield O2 Academy
Sat 16th London O2 Academy Brixton

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here