Live Review: Courteeners - Manchester Arena, 07/04/2018
It’s been ten years since the Courteeners released their debut album, St Jude, and what a time it has been. The band played a sold-out night at Manchester Arena to celebrate the occasion, exactly to the day of the original release.
The Courteeners are undeniably one of my favourite bands, not only because I love their tunes or even just because I fancy Liam Fray (who doesn’t!). They’re a band who I have had a love affair with for many years, and since moving to Manchester four years ago it has only become a lot more prominent. A band who I have seen live way more times than I can count on my fingers, a band who make it different every single time. A band who genuinely care about their fans and have worked so hard to fight the negativity and make it their own. A band who I love for their modesty, oh they know they’re good but bloody good they are and there’s no denying that, despite the sometimes-pessimistic views from outsiders.
Prior to the gig a large-scale billboard poster emerged inside Manchester Piccadilly Station, of the St Jude album cover with the words ‘The Courteeners - Still Here’. A hilarious review of the album has been attached which reads “I confidently predict that exactly no one will be listening to it in 10 years’ time.” – The Independent (2008). Much to the Independent's shoddy review, they were so wrong. Four albums later, (Six if you count St Jude Re:Wired and Concrete Love - Extra Love) The Courteeners have become one of Manchester’s most important bands, and have a huge following even outside of the North West. I’ve seen this band play in Manchester, Yorkshire, London and even Portugal, each time with everyone reacting in the exact same way, proving they are not just a ‘Manchester band with Northern fans’.
Support came from Yonaka and Peace. We missed Yonaka’s set as the arena have airport style security, although not minding, we didn’t anticipate it taking nearly forty minutes to get through. Since the horrendous attack on the venue nearly a year ago, it’s amazing to see so much security and people happily abiding by their rules. Anyway, once inside the arena, Peace had just taken to the stage. They played a mix of old singles and new songs, all of which started singalongs and received huge applause. New song ‘From Under the Liquid Glass’ went down a treat with the fans, everyone swaying and singing along, creating a beautiful atmosphere. Frances Bean Cobaine (Kurt’s daughter, if you didn’t know), recently revealed this was her favourite song of the last ten years, and rightly so because it holds a really important message. Near the end of the set Peace frontman Harrison Koisser, announced that they had a confession to make. “This is not our drummer, our drummer burnt his mouth on a pot noodle”. I later found out that the drummer in replacement, much to my excitement, was actually ex-Maccabee’s drummer, Sam Doyle!
By this point the whole arena was buzzing, everyone incredibly excited for what the night ahead was going to bring. After what felt like a lifetime waiting, the lights went out and ‘Oasis - Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ was blasting out, which set up the crowd raring to go. Everyone eagerly waited in anticipation for what was going to happen next.
Liam Fray and the boys came out and went straight into ‘Aftershow’, the first track on St Jude, and a track which isn’t usually in their live set. As the set went on it was soon obvious that the ten-year-old album was going to be played in its entirety, which was nothing but amazing to watch, especially after not been there at the shows ten years ago, back when this album was all they had. With each song, there was a long wait between, whether this was done intentionally to help calm the crowd who were being thrown about all over the place, or for the band to discuss things amongst themselves, it only added to the excitement and anticipation of everyone in the arena waiting for the next song.
After St Jude was played in full, the lighting switched and the word ‘the Courteeners’ lit up huge above the stage. A few years ago, it was announced that Courteeners were changing their name, I remember when my Mum told me, I almost couldn’t believe it, how had she found out before me! Anyway, turns out they just dropped the ‘The’ at the start of their name. All in all, this meant nothing at the time but looking back this marked a huge next step for the band. A few years later Mark Cuppello, the original bassist, also left the band to pursue other endeavours. Since then Courteeners have been unstoppable!
After a few acoustic songs from Liam, a back catalogue of singles and fan favourites followed. After playing the epic ‘Are You In Love With A Notion’, where red flares lit up the standing area, ‘Summer’, ‘The Open’er’ and ‘Modern Love’ followed, all being real highlights for me. Amongst the set Fray showed an emotional appreciation for lifelong friend and band mate Michael Campbell, saying “We’ve known each other since we were five, and I know every night, we come out that guy behind me is taking care of business”. Soon after thanking everyone involved, “All the people who you don’t see, this is what makes this fucking thing work”. Fray also encouraged anyone working the next day to take the day off and celebrate this night! If only eh.
St Jude big singles ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long’ finished the night. The crowd were going mental throughout, from the very front of standing to the highest seats in the arena. Everyone sang back each and every word, and even when it was over the crowd were still singing. Courteeners fans are generally known as being rowdy Manc lads who would do anything to get a flare past security, but tonight everyone came together as if they were best friends. Isn’t it amazing how music can do that, unite a whole city.
It has to be mentioned how there is now a really exceptional atmosphere in Manchester Arena, and it’s even more special when a band you love address that in the city you call home. After going ahead with a gig at Emirates Old Trafford a few days after the tragic night in May, and being a part of the We Are Manchester night to reopen the Arena, Courteeners have really helped in showing solidarity and making music fans feel relaxed at their gigs. An intense, yet extremely comfortable, hometown show at a venue where people may be hesitant in going, this band have wholeheartedly helped to turn that around with a monumental performance. We cannot and must not let hate win, go to gigs and enjoy yourself, no one can stop you from doing that.
It was a truly special evening, one which I’m sure will be remembered and talked about for years to come. I can’t wait to see them headline Neighbourhood Weekender in May and play their first sub headliner spot at Leeds and Reading in August.
Words by Abbie Jennings