“Don’t you know who I am I’m like a Morrissey with some strings” – Liam Fray
Rock City certainly knew the Mancunians were in town. They were selling lager by the 2pint pot and opened every bar inside the venue, including both in the basement. By the end of the gig, you would have been able to swim back downstairs.
A four piece post punk meets blues inspired set up fronted by the impossibly pretty Natalie Findlay were the evening’s thermometer with the simplest of support slot duties – to rouse an already teetering-on-the-edge-of-weeing in excitement following. Keeping any interaction to a minimum, Findlay crashed through their short set. Their energy was all encompassing so nobody really cared whether they talked or not. Prowling around the stage with Mick Jagger hip swings and rasping vocals, Findlay’s performance was captivating. Much of the set saw the same blues backbeat was used throughout with changing pace, pulsing solos and unusually no bassist complimenting it. ‘Your Sister’ was the set’s highlight; the garage speckled rock fully showcased Findlay’s stunning vocal range and brilliantly punky lyrics: “second chance, fuck romance, it’s not like I have a choice”. There are hundreds of female fronted post-punk outfits trying their hand this year but Findlay shuns fake punk try-hards with a seriously sinister but seductive charm alongside savagely sweet vocals.
Before I continue, I will accept that I am not the Courteeners‘ biggest ever fan. That being said, the Courteeners are the best at what they do whether you like it or not.
It must be said from the off, that The Courteeners’ following is almost religious; there was more of a football atmosphere than your average gig in Rock City. Eventually Liam Fray, their demi God, finally arrived on Rock City’s alter. Greeted by faintings and Epiphanies, or maybe too many WKDs for some of the younger apostles, the Mancunian Missionaries broke into three tracks from latest album ANNA. ‘Cavorting’ quickly followed up and saw the band at their best, whilst ‘Bide Your Time’ convinced me that if St Jude was released today rather than back in 2008, it would be their defining record.
Wielding his trusty Gretsch guitar, the proud Mancs battered through an extensive set, only damaged by some shoddy between-song changing. ‘Van der Graff’ was one of the best sounding tracks from their latest release, the others, however, felt as though they have lost the rough-round-the-edges feel that St Jude brought with it. If anything, tracks like ‘Lose Control’ and ‘Welcome To The Rave’ sounded almost too polished.
Nonetheless, the Fray solo mini-set interlude was a welcome break, if for anybody, for the beer and sweat covered apostles at the front. ‘Smiths Disco’ was a fan favourite, especially for those who made the Pilgrimage from the North West.
Then came ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, where the scenes were nothing short of total carnage and I was glad to just be a spectator. I’ve read various journalists recently calling the band’s followers thugs and hooligans, but that needs setting straight – aside from at heavy metal gigs, you just don’t see fans this level of devotion and they’re just enjoying themselves. This isn’t a bad thing.
Ending on ‘What Took You So Long’, the fan’s Messiah let out a rare smile and accepted that he had the thousand or so punters eating out of the palm of his hand. It would be unfair not to admit that The Courteeners are becoming one of the country’s finest live acts with their ever growing fan base and tight sets.
…Adam is listening to Perfume Genius – ‘Hood’…