Liam Fray has booked a series of intimate acoustic gigs across the north of England to promote The Courteeners’ new album Anna. The plan is working in England, with these gigs and a series of signing sessions looking set to propel Anna to a first number one for the band, knocking refutable Scottish rock gods Biffy Clyro from the top spot.
53 Degrees, Preston (Preston is a town north of Liverpool in the UK) is the venue for this very special show on a Thursday in early February. Support on this night came from the Mancunian singer/songwriter Danny Mahon. He opened the show with his explicit storytelling lyrics and snappy guitar riffs. Soon the crowd is chanting his name as he rattled off crowd pleaser Beat Me Up and single, Odd Socks Is The Secret Recipe, a no holds barred British love song.
A short break and several choruses of ‘Lee-Um,’ rising to a crescendo later, the man himself takes to the stage. Armed with the self confidence that decorates so many of Manchester’s front-men and an acoustic guitar, you can hardly recognize the lack of the rest of a band. The first few songs are hand-picked from debut album St. Jude, with How Come and Bide Your Time perfectly scripted for a sing-a-long, Mr Fray is hardly audible above the bellowing crowd.
Liam Fray pays tribute to his support act Danny Mahon, dedicating the apt Sycophant with lyrics, ‘Are my clothes alright?/ Is my hair alright?/ You can say what you want ‘cause it’s what we like.’ Although the show was billed as a promotional concert for their new album, the set list appears to be slanted slightly towards their previous albums, particularly their debut St. Jude.
Liam Fray of The Courteneers’ “Bid Your Time” [acoustic]
However, new album songs Here Come The Young Men, Marquee, Van Der Graaf and lead single Lose Control get an outing with the band’s keyboard player Adam Payne making an appearance. Surprisingly, it’s not single Lose Control that gets the best reception three days after the release of the album, but the masterfully written, almost poetic Van Der Graaf.
Throughout the night the crowd cheer the interlude to What Took You So Long but are left waiting. There are a few surprises in the set, including b-sides Car 31 and Smith’s Disco, a tribute to their fellow Manchester band which got an incredible reception given its status. A well appreciated and well executed cover of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal is the biggest surprise.
The Courteeners’ “Not Nineteen Forever” [obviously, this isn’t the solo acoustic version, but a taste of the band in case you’re wondering]
Included in the seventy minute set is plenty of sing-a-long numbers such as The Rest Of The World Has Gone Home, Please Don’t and the keyboard led Last Of The Ladies in which Liam Fray was effectively out sung.
Further begs for What Took You so Long are at last met with the opening chords from the front-man and the crowd, for the first time, descended into a dance. The usual live performance of this song was recreated in the acoustic show with a chord drop into a verse and chorus of James’ Tomorrow, before tearing back into the What Took You So Long interlude.
The final song of the night was the ever bouncy Not Nineteen Forever. Despite losing some of the tempo and ferocity in the translation to acoustic guitar, the Courteeners’ fans truly enjoyed singing every word in time with Mr Fray.
The established front-man allowed himself a smile come the end of the set and thanked the fans for the turnout in the sold out 1500 capacity venue. Through the crowd’s applause, Liam Fray signs off from a professional performance of an appropriately balanced set list with, ‘Courteeners forever.’
Although at times the audience was desperate to hear a drum beat to allow it to descend into a sweaty dance, the acoustic show gave Liam Fray the chance to show off his vocal ability which seems to excel with every album he writes. Although the show was technically for the promotion of new album Anna, Mr Fray definitely thought about the fans when picking the set list for this show and made sure he filled each audience member’s appetite.
Written by Jack Ryan
OurVinyl | Contributor