Here we are again, stood on the run down surface of Platform 2 at Manchester Oxford Road, heading home again after the last gig of the year, and what a year it’s been. There’s something about this city that grabs hold of you, and music that resonates and reverberates interpersonally like a rival team’s result flooding around the terraces. Right now, just as on a smaller scale in 2008; everyone is talking about The Courteeners.
Last night was the final chapter of an unprecedented 7 nights at the O2 Apollo. I spoke last week about consistency, and how this band are at the very top of their game and have been for a long time, and when last night they’re even better than last week, it really does put into perspective why I and so many other people come back again and again… and again.
First, a word about Reverend and The Makers and specifically Jon McClure. The energy and non-stop nature of their sets has been mentioned far and wide, none less than by me after their gig at The Ritz a few weeks back. They’re full of appreciation for Liam and the boys for having them, but like last week with Blossoms, this was really a double header, full marks.
Their stage has come a long way since the sole iconography being the tattered mic kit with ‘The Courteeners’ printed on that would sit on the floor, now synonymous with those early days. In 2015, the glittering letters hang high above Campbell on the drums, surely not what they imagined when they were playing to their mates all that while ago. They first shimmer as the band walk on stage to another rapturous reception, cult heroes but with such high expectations.
Are You In Love With A Notion bursts, it sends a room on the corner of Stockport Road into a frenzy, and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Cavorting is up next and it keeps its raw power, the same as it had when it aggressively forced its way into record collections on St Jude.
An assault of tunes follow, once more, Winter Wonderland is introduced paying homage to the fantastic work of Shelter.
“It’s so easy just to walk past and say you you’ve got nothing, but you know and I know, you’ve always got something.”
Song 11 is a cover of Champagne Supernova, and it fades into Small Bones like Fray and Gallagher had penned them together. “Manchester knows” says Fray, it sure does. It knows enough to have bred the best bands in music bar none, and when it likes a band, they get on well. Manchester has been good to them, no doubt, but it is fully deserved and their hometown sits and the focal point of everything they do.
When you’re going to see a band more than once on a tour, the words “now, we haven’t played this one on this tour yet” are music to your ears, so when How Come appears as the first of Fray’s acoustic tracks, I’m chuffed to say the least. Also part of this section is Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow and it’s the best version I’ve heard in a very long time.
As per the narrative of The Courteeners’ gigs, there are five songs left on the set. Next Time You Call allows Liam to extend the word “call” long enough for it to have circled the city; Mancunian Way, Trinity Way, Great Ancoats, had a smoke outside the Apollo, grabbed a Tuborg and made it back down the front.
“For anyone who loves The Courteeners,” next up was Here Come The Young Men. Strange in the absence of Mark Cuppello, but the words still hit right where they’re supposed to… “and ever, amen.”
A contrast between Beautiful Head and Radio 1’s new baby Not Nineteen Forever is next. The former is arguably the best from 2014’s Concrete Love and it gets better.
The final note of What Took You So Long ends the year aptly. Clambering down the front there’s an opportunity for a sweaty handshake “alright again”, alright Liam.
He spoke mid-set of a new album, 2016 will be quiet for them and it may be a while before another gig like this one, but if album 5 continues in the same vein as they have been then we’re in for an extension to their place on the throne of music in Manchester and indeed nationwide. Manchester got them first and now the whole country and clicking on to the band so many people wrote off and tried to ignore.
7 nights, Heaton Park in June and a new album on the horizon. Still here, and here to stay. God bless the band.