Some bands divide opinions, others make the Cold War look like a minor disagreement.
The Courteeners are as disliked as they are revered – caring not a jot whether you agree with them or not. Whilst third-album Anna might have proved popular with fans, critics have continued their icy indifference towards the Mancunian four-piece.
But try telling a sold out Picture House their music isn’t up to it. Ape-ings of their biggest hits begin well before the band took to the stage, reaching a crescendo of pent up energy as they strode out.
Kicking off with new track ‘Why Are You In Love With A Notion’ was as bold as it is brilliant. The hymn-like chorus brings a reverential feeling to the raucous air, proving to the already-convinced that The Courteeners have guile as well as glory.
And the new, often more pensive songs, flourish alongside the well-worn classics. ‘Push Yourself’ snarls with gritty guitars before flowering into a positively pop chorus. ‘Lose Control’ is unlike anything The Courteeners have done before, blending expansive hooks with perfectly balanced vocals from frontman Liam Fray.
Later in the set ‘Money’ and ‘Here Come The Young Men’ further demonstrate the eclecticism of Anna. ‘Money’s rough-riding guitars stomp the crowd into a frenzy whilst ‘…Men’ achieves the same result through its harmony-honed headiness.
Less successful is the solo downtempo mid-section, although things are kicked up a few notches by the perfectly-timed riposte Fray delivers to a ‘fan’ being ejected for hitting him with a drink.
And you can always rely on the debut classics. Brimming with enough energy to wake Lazarus, songs like the taser-tongued ‘Cavoting’ and bass-heavy ‘Kings Of The New Road’ spark pandemonium. Bringing their set to a close with ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long’ showcases the band at their buzzing best, rolling back the years without nostalgic nausea but confident control.
The Courteeners are three albums in and aren’t going away. The longest-lasting of the of the indie-revivalists who sprang up in the second half of the noughties, they have added a new range to the thunder-crashing power of their earlier crossbow choruses. And with live performances like tonight they’ll still be selling out venues another three albums down the line.
Photo by Andrew Romanis