Ahead of the release of their third album ‘ANNA’, The Courteeners stage a massive homecoming concert in Manchester.Â Fergal Kinney reports on the sold out gig at Manchester Arena. All photo’s Hayley Taylor.
âIâve been away, Iâve been working but now Iâm backâ¦â
Itâs the first Friday of December and at Manchesterâs largest indoor venue the flattened North Manchester vowels of Liam Frayâs signature croon are being rendered inaudible by the 17 000 strong audience. The venue isnât just sold out, itâs bursting at the seams, and this isnât some nostalgia band or manufactured pop event â itâs a modest four piece guitar band who were born a stones throw away from the Arena itself.
Since the release of their debut âSt Judeâ, 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 âANNAâ is out in February, it will mark three years since the release of their last album âFalconâ, and itâs testament to the loyalty of their audience that theyâve weathered such a wait in a music world so dominated and driven by trends. At last yearâs 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.
Tonightâs set begins with âThe Openerâ; the first track on 2010âs âFalconâ and a self professed love letter to Manchester. Many fans from London to Glasgow have made the journey for tonightâs gig, and âThe Openerâs 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 âCavortingâ is a sight seldom witnessed. Much of debut album âSt Judeâ is performed tonight, and itâs clear how much that record means to a lot of the audience from the ferocious âIf It Wasnât for Meâ to the Ronettes via Shudehill Bus Interchange tale of ex-girlfriends âPlease Donâtâ. 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, theyâve 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 canât 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 â a town itself struggling with library closures and crippling cuts â delivering a storming gig with the audience making the very most of the grandiose theatreâs sprung dancefloor.
The four new songs aired tonight suggest 2013 should be another good year for the band. âPush Yourselfâ marries a singalong chorus to the angular disco guitars of Franz Ferdinand and hints at a more eclectic and contemporary sound for next yearâs new album âANNAâ. âMoneyâ on the other hand, one of four new tracks debuted tonight, is a foray into early Kings of Leon style dirty rockânâroll only previously hinted at with St Judeâs âKings of the New Roadâ. The best received new material of the night is âWelcome to the Raveâ and forthcoming single âLose Controlâ, with large sections of the audience already knowing the words.
The press attention to the Courteeners has always been confused â the music press doesnât much like to celebrate bands it didnât anoint in the first place â but this is a band that matters to audiences up and down the UK. Thereâs 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 Frayâs mid set excursion to a small stage in the centre of the standing area to perform a short solo set comprising of album tracks âYesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrowâ, âHow Comeâ and âThe Rest of the World Has Gone Homeâ. 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 âTake Over the Worldâ seems almost too easy for these kind of venues, the audience in âNot Nineteen Foreverâ is a spectacle in itself, made all the better by the lighting of a flare in the audience â 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.
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 Â© Hayley Taylor. More of Fergal’s articles on Louder Than War can be read here.
NEW SINGLE âLOSE CONTROLâ RELEASED ON 28TH JANUARY
RELEASE THIRD ALBUM âANNAâ 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 âANNAâ on 4th February which will be preceded by new single âLose Controlâ on 28th January, both released through V2. Zane Lowe last night gave fans the first exclusive listen to âLose Controlâ which can be downloaded now from â bit.ly/CourteenersLoseControl and you can listen to a teaser of the track here â Courteeners Lose Control [teaser].
âLose Controlâ opens with an addictive hook followed by Liamâs distinctive vocals which then catapult into a huge chorus of drums and melody. It the perfect introduction to the new sound of the bandâs third album.
It has been two years since Courteeners last album âFalconâ, which charted at #6 and followed the bands #4 debut album âSt. Judeâ. 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 XFMâs Winter Wonderland at O2 Academy Brixton on 17th December. Full February and March tour dates are as follows â
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
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