This Courteeners article was written by Natalie Whitehouse, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
For the vast majority of teenagers and twenty-somethings, it’s hard to find where you belong. But Manchester’s finest the Courteeners have really struck on something: they make you feel as though you belong. They sing songs that mean something. That resonate. That matter. And in turn, this means the band matters a great deal to a great lot of people.
They played a sell out show at Manchester’s Heaton Park in June this year, for a homecoming gig that was nothing short of a triumph for a band that, when mentioned, will often be met with raised eyebrows and a “who?” from many.
But for those who filled Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall on Thursday evening; the word on everyone’s lips was that of the band they love. The band who make them feel like they matter.
As Oasis’ ‘Morning Glory’ warmed up the room’s vocal chords, the band took to the stage; front man Liam Fray as suave as ever in a tight white shirt, joined by guitarist Daniel Moores, drummer Michael Campbell, and new bassist Joe Cross, after the recent departure of Mark Cuppello.
Needing no introduction, they flew into opener ‘Are You In Love With a Notion?,’ following it with plenty of set list staples to whet the appetite of the adoring crowd: from the thrashing, mosh-pit inducing ‘Cavorting,’ to ‘How Good It Was?’, one of the stand out tracks taken from last year’s ‘Concrete Love’ album.
Amongst these we were also treated to some rarities. ‘St Jude’s’ ‘Kings of the New Road’ got a run out, as did the darker ‘Will It Be This Way Forever?’, introduced by Fray, who teased the song’s lyrics “naive, young, and not too clever…” to a crowd more than ready to hear a track which doesn’t usually make the cut for live shows.
Thankfully joining the list was ‘Sycophant,’ a real anthem of a song that could well stand for the band as a whole. The aforementioned feeling of belonging is apparent throughout the track. When the entire room, arms aloft, is singing the rousing lyrics “we are judged on every single thing we do/we could not care less, ‘cause we are us not you,” at the tops of their voices, it creates a real spine-tingling moment. Not many bands have been able to create such a fierce statement of passion and defiance, and the stand out moment of the gig can only be one which makes you feel like you belong as much as this song does.
As has become custom now, the middle of the set saw Fray don his acoustic guitar, first playing new release ‘Winter Wonderland,’ which we were all encouraged to buy even if we thought it was shit, as the money will be going to Shelter.
B Side ‘Let Down Your Guard’ was another surprise addition to the evening, a brave decision, with many fans not knowing the words; but a move than a front man brimming with as much confidence as Liam Fray has can do – he’s overflowing with the stuff, and rightly so. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, as ever. His name being chanted between songs. He even let us choose between ‘Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow’ and ‘Smiths Disco’ during his acoustic session; the Wolverhampton crowd unanimous in their decision, voting for the latter and singing along in full voice.
Ever pandering to the crowd, a cover of ‘Champagne Supernova’ was played as an introduction to ‘Small Bones’; leaving instruments behind for a moment and letting the room make all the noise. They’re one for creating moments, are the Courteeners, and this was definitely a special one.
As the night began to draw to a close, there was still time for ‘Here Come The Young Men’ and ‘Beautiful Head,’ the latter remaining on the set list after it received a phenomenal reaction when played at Heaton Park. It subdued the carnage for a few minutes, as the crowd prepared themselves for the traditional mayhem that is part and parcel of a Courteeners set closer.
And they didn’t disappoint: Fray teased the crowd as he played the opening chords to indie anthem ‘Not Nineteen Forever,’ “here we go, here we go… you don’t wanna be at the bar for this mate,” before the band flew into their most famous song and carnage ensued once more. The ever present ending to their live shows, ‘What Took You So Long?’ followed, seeing the evening out in raucous fashion. Another triumph for a band who just keep getting better.
And it is very important that they do continue to do this. It’s important that bands like the Courteeners exist, and keep doing what they are doing: creating music to make people feel like they belong, somewhere, just for an hour or two.