Tonight's concert should have been the kick off to a triumphant week for Courteeners, culminating in a sold-out 50,000 homecoming in Manchester at the weekend. Instead, the Manchester bombing that happened less than 24 hours earlier lead to an inevitably less buoyant atmosphere.
Frontman Liam Fray takes to the stage prior to the show proper, wearing an I Love Manchester shirt. The band has always taken great pride in their origins and he delivers an emotional poem of resilience and togetherness, which makes the rest of the performance irrelevant. This one act relieves an unspoken pressure for band and audience, who react rapturously in the united defiance outlined in the stanzas. The set begins with 'The Opener', which couldn't be any more poignant, as it is a love letter to the band's home town. Fray will reference events again later in the set, dedicating an acoustic 'Smith's Disco' to the people of Manchester.
After the emotional beginning, the band loosen up as they power through a clinical set of hits and live favourites - 'Take Over The World', 'Small Bones' and 'Cavorting' never fail to pump up a Courteeners crowd. 'Lose Control' is grittier on stage than the studio version, while a quick survey easily identifies 'Please Don't' as a favourite over 'No You Didn't, No You Don't'. The lack of recent touring results in Fray sounding as clear as he ever has, and all signs are that their biggest gig yet will be electric. The context in which tonight takes place can't be removed, but this has always been a band of the people and tonight, that bond is stronger than ever.
Liam reading his dedication to Manchester:
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