Gig review: The Courteeners at the Barrowlands

Liam Fray
Liam Fray

Manc rockers The Courteeners are often dismissed as mid-table indie lightweights by critics - just try telling that to their adoring Glasgow fans.

It might only be early December but by the time lead singer Liam Fray bounds on to the Barrowlands stage the sold out crowd have already made the night feel like Christmas and New Year rolled into one.

Football chanting and good-natured pint throwing is the order of the day in an incendiary atmosphere.

Security give up telling off people for hoisting girlfriends onto shoulders by the end of opening track ‘Are You in Love With A Notion’ as the gig becomes a free-for-all.

Hearing them live - minus the polished production of latest album Anna - it’s easy to understand why they inspire such devotion.

In front of an audience, every moment that seems leaden and uninspired on record is transformed into a feel-good singalong classic.

While there’s little new in the mix of heavy hook-led rockers and earnest guitar ballads, they deliver every chord in a likeably cocky manner.

Oasis are the most obvious precursor geographically and vocally - but comparisons with stadium-fillers Kings of Leon might be more pertinent musically.

It’s the songs from debut album ‘St. Jude’ which stand out, an early one-two of ‘Cavorting’ and ‘Acrylic’ doing the seemingly impossible and making the crowd turn even more feverishly excitable.

The newer tracks slot in fairly well - although there’s a suspicion this is just because of a lack of evolution rather than high quality control. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ could be the band’s mantra as they deliver variations on a theme.

Still, a first encore adds a little much-needed variation, with Fray belting out three songs unaccompanied - something he’s become used to during a recent solo tour.

A closing couplet of old favourites ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long’ ends things on a suitable high for the sweaty throng who sing back every word.

There’s no arguing that it’s an arresting spectacle, although it seems that the crowd provide as much of the entertainment as the band they’ve paid to see - the music taking a back seat to a determination to have a great night out.

“The deal is we play the music and you go mental”, shouts Fray at one point. It’s a contract both parties are happy to stick to.