There’s a lot of pressure on a band touring a new album; will the new songs prove an amazing success or a complete failure? The pressure is on The Courteeners tonight - especially so on Liam Fray: frontman and leader of the band, who has carried them to success and huge popularity in the UK.
Brixton Academy is always an intense atmosphere anyway, so we can imagine how the band is feeling. Having already shown extreme character and charisma in previous shows such as Heaton Park, T In The Park and Glastonbury, tonight’s intensity should not phase them in any way at all. Support act Clean Cut Kid have talked about The Courteeners all night, which shows how much of a big deal this gig is for all concerned.
The evening began with some classic Oasis on the PA - ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’ proving just the thing to prepare the crowd for the show ahead, whose chants of “Liam, Liam, Liam” spread around the venue.
As the band ventured out on stage, the spotlight shone on Liam, and remained there throughout the night - the other band members playing in his shadow, but still putting on an unbelievable show that the crowd would never forget.
Their set was kickstarted with the stimulating anthem ‘Are You In Love With A Notion’, from 2013’s ‘Anna’. A perfect opener, it had everybody ready to bounce around all night, and was swiftly followed-up with the fast-paced ‘Modern Love’ from new LP ‘Mapping The Rendezvous’ - judging by the crowd’s similarly ecstatic reaction, this has all the hallmarks of a future classic. Newer singles ‘No One Will Ever Replace Us’ and ‘The 17th’ were just as explosive - new album nerves were immediately dispelled.
A turning point in the night came when guitarist Daniel Moores and drummer Michael Campbell left the stage to let Liam sing a select few songs acoustically. A particular highlight was ‘Smiths Disco’, the B-side to perhaps their most popular hit, ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, from debut album, ‘St. Jude’. An unexpected choice for the slot, it showed that the band weren’t afraid to shake up the evening instead of playing the same setlist night after night. Latest single ‘De La Salle’ was also featured in the acoustic set, and was sent with a message from Fray: “Fuck everybody who tries to get you down,” advised the strong-willed frontman to his followers.
The final two songs of the night, ‘St. Jude’ favourites ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long’, were enough to drive the crowd wild - the former saw the entire venue plunged into complete darkness for its slow piano interlude before the lights returned in full blaze simultaneously with the crashing drums and incendiary guitars to set the place on fire.
Crowning an evening of incredible atmosphere, the latter song - The Courteeners’ traditional farewell - couldn’t fail to impress, with Fray’s vocals still going strong after a whole night screaming and shouting, and not even looking tired at all.
A truly outstanding performance from one of the best live British bands of the moment in one of the country’s finest live venues. My abiding memory will be hearing my favourite of their songs - ‘Small Bones’, from 2014’s ‘Concrete Love’ - in all its glory. A delicate and lovely ballad, it exemplifies The Courteeners’ ability to harness their softer side and demonstrates their skills with a keen melody. It’s this versatility that ensures fans will always cherish The Courteeners, whose legacy is steadily building them up to the exalted highs of their heroes, with continued and bigger success ahead.
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Words: Tommy O'Rourke
Photography: Myles Wright - LINK