Manchester is famous for being kind to its musical children. The city loves nothing more than to celebrate its own, and when they are musicians this usually leads to their homecoming shows being the hottest ticket in town. We’ve seen it just recently with the Stone Roses reunion gigs but on Friday night it was the turn of The Courteeners to entertain their home crowd.
I have to admit I was surprised to hear The Courteeners were playing the Manchester Arena. Their moderate chart success means I’ve never seen them as a big enough band to play to that large a crowd. However they absolutely packed the arena out with barely a spare seat left in the house. As soon as Liam Fray and co stalked on to the stage and he calmly got the gig going with a simple “Shall we do this?” the atmosphere in the Arena hit the roof and it barely settled down over the course of the evening.
To say the attendees were rowdy would be an understatement. Full beer cups were being lobbed with abandon in the upper tier and there was barely a person not jumping up and down for the entire duration of the performance. The standing section appeared like one unrelenting wave, throbbing in time to the indie pop beats.
With two albums worth of material and another on the horizon, the band glided easily through their catalogue, surprisingly pulling big hit ‘You Overdid It Doll’ out of the bag rather early in. For fans of The Courteeners this was a dream gig involving them rattling through singles and album tracks alike. For less acquainted attendees, the lack of major hits would have made for a lower octane experience. Witty songs about texts from ex-girlfriends, as yet unfulfilled dreams and drunken nights out may now be the stuff of Britpop legend but they aren’t quite as well or as catchily executed here as they have been by other bands that have come before them.
The new material performed shows good promise. Particularly of note was ‘Push Yourself’ which sounds a lot like the mid tempo bigger hits that The Courteeners have had most success with. There’s also a bit more of a rocky edge to them which is welcomed. I can’t help but think this would be a good direction for them to follow more often.
The performance itself is pretty straightforward until one point when Fray disappears off the main stage and reappears running through the crowd surrounded by bodyguards to a small platform at the back of the sound stage for three acoustic tracks. The crowd lap it up but the cynic in me wonders why Fray chooses to perform tracks by himself that show no real variance to the rest of the songs played by the whole band, aside from them being acoustic.
While the evening holds no real surprises, everything does come together during the final few songs. ‘Take Over The World’ is accompanied by a beautiful light show which transforms the band suddenly into stadium performers. It’s a moment which is a bit reminiscent of a Coldplay performance and songs like this are the exact reason Coldplay are so big. Finishing off with ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ gives the band a triumphant ending to a well pulled-off concert. Ask anyone in that room if they loved the gig and they will undoubtedly respond with an ethusiastic yes, I only came away questioning if they could pull a gig that size off anywhere other than home. But maybe that’s the point and that’s what makes home special.