Liam Fray and co give the crowd exactly what they want with a set of classic songs.
There’s an argument that The Courteeners are the Last Great Guitar Band. You know the kind. Anthems that resonate with their passionate fan base, live performances that leave you demanding more if you’re there and a massive overdose of FOMO if you’re not.
That’s why, fifteen years after the release of their seminal debut album St Jude, they’re gigging again. There’s still an appetite for Liam Fray and the Manchester gang to deliver. So much so they’d sold out a home town gig in Heaton Park. And for those who couldn’t make it that’s why they played a couple of dates in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
They were ably supported in Auld Reekie by local singer-songwriter Brooke Combe. In a short space of time she’s proved that she’s not just a bunch of TikTok covers that propelled her to stardom. Instead, playing tracks from her superb album Black Is The New Gold she confirmed she’s a special talent indeed.
After a well received airing of the Oasis song ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory,’ over the PA a lone piper made his way to the front of the stage where he promoted a stirring version of ‘Flower O Scotland’ that sent for crowd crazy. He swaggered off to be replaced by the main reason why people were in a sweaty dark venue on a Sunday night.
Fray, with his long hair ties back and in a black sleeveless vest, resembled a Rattle And Hum era Bono, an indication perhaps of the stadium band status they’ve earned.
‘Aftershow’ started proceedings, one of the best opening songs on a debut album this century. Three relentless songs in with ‘Cavorting’ and there was folk on shoulders who lapped it up with all their might.
Despite it being a decade and a half since the albums release, none of the material sounded dated or unwanted. ‘Bide Your Time’ started a massive sing song with the crowd, ‘Please Don’t’ reverberated the O2 with its passion and ‘Acrylic’ had hands punching the air in delight.
Fray was serenaded a chorus of ‘No Scotland No Party’ before his acoustic solo set. The joyous exuberance of ‘Smiths Disco’ led the way for a glorious cover of ‘It Must Be Love,’ made famous by Madness.
The rest of the band returned for the encore which asked the aged old question. How do you celebrate an album? Do you play it in its exact running order or do you keep the best known and most loved songs for the end? What do you think?
Before the inevitable finish they took us through a range of emotions. Heartstrings were pulled with ‘Hanging From A Cloud’
‘Not Nineteen Forever’ their most famous anthem, teed things up perfectly for the final song. Fray lamented that a lot had happened in the fifteen years since St Jude was released and thanked the crowd for their support.
He then returned the gratitude in the best way the band could. Not only did he have a saltire wrapped around his guitar but the ended with ‘What Took You So Long’ the song that heralded a very special talent all those years ago. The snippets of ‘Tomorrow’ from James made it even more memorable.
Scotland might have been denied the stadium sized gig that was rumoured with Murrayfield being the favoured venue. It didn’t matter with a crowd so up for it they felt like a mass far bigger than they were.
Due to health and safety reasons and the endeavours of security staff who searched every cavity known to man, there weren’t any flares in the crowd. It didn’t matter. There’s always fireworks when The Courteeners are in town.