LIVE: The Courteeners @ Albert Hall, Manchester 16.2.19

Review and images by Jonathan Taylor

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To celebrate the release of their sixth studio album, ‘More. Again. Forever’, which reached number 2 in the album charts, The Courteeners played a series of intimate shows in Kingston upon Thames, Leeds and Liverpool. Naturally these celebrations had to be brought to a close in their home town of Manchester and over the weekend Liam Fray and Co. played four sold out shows in two days to 8000 fans at the iconic Manchester venue, the Albert Hall.

Given the fact that The Courteeners played a sold out show at Manchester Arena at the back end of last, for fans of the band to be part of an occasion in such intimate surroundings, naturally the atmosphere in the venue is that of a coiled spring.

As the house lights dim, the Albert Hall erupts as Liam Fray, Daniel Moores, Michael Campbell, Joseph Cross and Elina Lin take to the stage. Everyone in the balcony areas are on their feet and the crowd below is swirling in all directions. The set gets underway with new album opener ‘Heart Attack’ and the hall launches into a sea of celebratory chaos. The crowd in the stalls bounces energetically and the obligatory launching of half-filled plastic pint glasses gets underway. ‘Heavy Jacket’ is up next. Front man Fray downs his guitar and over the sounds of World War 2 air raid sirens and heavy guitars he works each corner of the stage as he delivers the lyrics with conviction.

The elation amongst the crowd continues as the opening chords of  ‘Are You In Love With a Notion’ fills the building. It is a moment that demonstrates perfectly the galvanization between a band and it’s following as the fervent fan base sings every word back to the stage. ‘Acrylic’ is up next and new offering ‘Better Man’ follows. Though it was only released at the back end of last year, it has already cemented itself into the subconscious and is a worthy addition to the list of the bands back catalogue of sing along classics.

Guitar and melodic synth driven track ‘Previous Parties’ is a fresh addition to the set, before ‘Small Bones’ and ‘Modern Love’. The tempo drops for the first time during the evening for another track off the new album, ‘One day at a Time’. If there was a reason to get to grips with The Courteeners latest album release, this track is as good a reason as any. Fray’s lyrics are transparent and honest, and are backed by a wonderfully uplifting anthemic arrangement. This brings the first chapter of the set to a close and the band then leaves the stage to rapturous applause.

String arrangements play though the speakers for a few moments and then The Courteeners return to the stage and perform ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’. Half way through the track, Liam sits of the drum kit riser with a whisky in hand and raises his glass to toast the crowd. It is completely justified as this is an absolute gem and without question is one of the evenings and new albums musical highlights. As the chorus resounds around the venue and with a bird’s eye view of the crowd below, it is evident just how much the music of this band means to so many.

A stunning rendition of ‘17th’ is followed by the traditional set closers ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long?’ During the final tracks of the evening, the whole of the Albert Hall bounces tirelessly in unison, plastic pints glasses yet again are launched like missiles and flares that have been smuggled into the venue fill the hall with vibrant bursts of colour. The sense of unity and togetherness is quite overwhelming and the passion on the faces in the crowd as they sing every word back to the stage with arms in the air really is a site to behold.

The Courteeners are a band of the people. They represent what is great about music and its ability to transcend. There weekend residency at the Albert Hall was a triumphant success and if you could bottle what happened here tonight, we would be all the better for it.