One sign of a confident band is the music played between the support and their appearance on stage. The Courteeners are not the kind to regale the crowd with Peruvian nose flutes, dodgy 50’s blues or obscure techno, rather they hit them squarely between the eyes with the Manchester back catalogue including The Smiths, Doves, New Order, and Inspiral Carpets, with Oasis’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Star whipping the assembled into a frenzy. Follow that! The good news is that for the most part they can.
Later on Courteener’s Liam Fray would be complimenting Birmingham on their reception dedicating “What Took You So Long” to the crowd and bemoaning how hard it is to break out of Manchester. He missed the point; Manchester came to Birmingham, and that included a fair number of the audience.
But the early signs were far from promising with an early start due to the Academy “curfew” and two support bands; It’s a Buffalo from Manchester with their Coral-like skiffle, and You Animals from Derby. Both played to a fairly sparse crowd with the performance highlight being You Animal’s Ryan Needham literally falling flat on his face early in the set. Like a trooper he was up and at ‘em as if nothing had happened. Both supports were lively and with some decent tunes, but it was hard to judge as the sound on the floor for both was awful.
As the bars and the M6 emptied the atmosphere built to show the Academy in its best light. Packed, hot and sweaty with wall panels vibrating and that curious liquid dripping from the ceilings. Manchester’s greatest hits were accompanied by loads of singing and perhaps too many lager showers before the main event took to the stage.
Liam Fray looks like a musician from Manchester, Gallagher-esque in look and stature and even having his own quirky microphone thing going on. A monochrome Dennis the Menace, hunched over both guitar and mic he battled sound gremlins “I can’t hear anything out of these two things” charging through an anthemic set list to a word perfect audience. It’s tempting to think that they’re were trying too hard but the crowd lapped it all up, and with good reason.
The “Aftershow/Kimberley” combination seems now a to be the staple opener for the band and the following set seemed to career along peaking with the blistering “Cavorting” and “Bide Your Time” before calming down a bit with a new song “Bo Jangles” and “Fallowfield Hillbilly” from debut album “St Jude”.
Then the whole thing fell away. Liam Fray paid his dues as a touring singer song writer before the Courteeners were created so maybe he thinks an acoustic solo spot will showcase this part of his career. “No You Didn’t, No You Don’t” went down well but the aptly titled “Why Do You Do It?” descended into farce with false starts and forgotten lyrics and in the end he gave up ushering the largely anonymous remaining band members back on stage.
The single “Not Nineteen Forever” got proceedings back on track but all too soon it was over with the dedication to the crowd and “Do three things for me: Buy It’s a Buffalo’s Album, Go Home Safe, and Go F****n’ Mental to this song” for “What Took You So Long.
And so Manchester left the area. The Courteeners have great songs so they shouldn’t need to overdo the swagger and they don’t need to push the Manchester connection quite so hard but it’s what the fans want, so it’s what the fans get. It was a pity that it only lasted for an hour.
Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Stephanie Colledge