When The Courteeners omitted Manchester from their last touring run in 2014, it pointed to plans for a homecoming event for the quartet, which, when announced, reportedly sold out in less than an hour.  The venue has previously hosted such local luminaries as Oasis and The Stone Roses, an indicator perhaps of the mantle that Liam Fray and company are now taking on.

The Courteeners

Not that it turns out that they need it, but The Courteeners arrive on stage on the front foot after an evening of glorious sunshine - a guaranteed way to set a positive mood at any outdoor gig.  They launch into their bona fide party starter 'Are You In Love With A Notion?', and like 'How Good It Was', it is clear that the song will be part of their shows for years to come.  Unfortunately it is also evident that the PA system could do with turning up a few notches as the volume far from blows you away, meaning what little conversation there is with the crowd gets lost in the Manchester night.  Nonetheless, those in attendance are clearly enjoying themselves, particularly when the band visits earlier material such as 'Fallowfield Hillbilly' and 'Cavorting'.  Particularly rapturous receptions are given to 'Sycophant' and 'Bide Your Time', where flares are set off for the umpteenth time - an action that can't be condoned due to safety risks, but there is no denying the additional visual impact they provide to a fevered atmosphere.

Perhaps sensing the need for a breather for band and fans, a solo acoustic couplet including 'Acrylic' ensues, but even with Fray being an engaging presence it doesn't quite work during what should be a mass celebration.  The momentum is more than recovered with the likes of 'Aftershow' and the established closing anthems of 'Not Nineteen Forever' and 'What Took You So Long?', but there is a feeling of what should be a great night doesn't get above being a very good night.  Sound preferences aside, the omitting of singles and fan favourites such as 'You Overdid It Doll' and 'Smiths Disco' cannot be overlooked.  At a running time of less than two hours and with the inclusion of 'Beautiful Head' and 'Yesterday, Today And Probably Tomorrow', it hasn't been the lengthiest set comprised of essential Courteeners.  However it should be noted that the band played well and that Fray has the crowd in his hands - the quartet are not out of place headlining a gig of this size and it would be no surprise for them to be doing so for years to come.

Alex Lai

Official Site - http://www.thecourteeners.com/