Cocksure and bold as brass, the ‘other’ Liam does his best to outshine his heroic namesake in front of a beery, laddish crowd.
Date: March 8, 2010
Venue: Rock City
‘Tonight, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll star’. The words of Liam Gallagher on Oasis’s chest-beating mission statement Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, a song which is belted to the crowd via the PA system as The Courteeners flex their muscles backstage, like boxers about to enter the ring.
There are a few things we can deduce from this choice of warm-up song.
1) The Courteeners’ out-spoken and valiant talisman Liam Fray knows its rabble-rousing anthemia will instantly whet the crowd’s appetite in readiness for his entrance.
2) With the Oasis pillars crumbled, our Liam, Liam Mk 2 if you like, feels it’s up to him to carry on the legacy left over by the Gallagher brothers and continue the lineage of Manchester’s proud musical heritage.
Thirdly, and more pertinently, Fray is certain, particularly with the passionate dotage displayed by this and every other sell-out crowd on the tour, that he has been ordained as a bonafide rock star, and there is no bolder statement than that song to epitomise this fact.
For Fray, the news of Oasis’s demise must have educed mixed emotions. Sad that the city’s best band had seemingly died but buoyed by the fact that an opening for another self-assured and mouthy protégé to take the mantle had appeared, he must’ve sensed the unmistakable whiff of opportunity in the Manchester air. And he’s been quick to fill the void, upping his and his band’s game considerably.
The cocksure attitude and swagger which etched deep into debut album St.Jude, and which put Fray in the same gobby bracket is “that other Liam”, has now manifested itself into a defiant and bold live experience after previous live shows felt a little contrived and void of any true potential.
With the crowd suitably warmed up, Fray bounces onto the stage with the impudence usually only displayed by seasoned rock deities. Chants of “Liam, Liam, Liam” echo around Rock City as he throws his arms aloft, his shades poking from his messy main, his confident swagger now his own and not appearing to be stolen from his peers.
Cavorting’s opening bars start a mini-riot in the pit, the young throng taking no notice of the strict ‘No Crowdsurfing’ policy to thrust themselves forward like moths to a flame.
Debut album St. Jude is played almost in its entirety throughout the 1 hour 45 minute set, each song seemingly outdoing its predecessor.
But new album Falcon has given the band a new direction to have fun with in the live arena. A touch of New Order here, a hint of Elbow there, a testimony to Mersey stalwarts The Coral in other hard-to-reach areas, it offers alternatives to the Libertines-if-they-had-been-northern firebrands from their debut.
The Courteeners’ detractors have always pointed to their lack of dexterity as the crux to their incapability of drawing in agnostics. You Overdid it Doll is now the song which says ‘up yours’ to those doubters. Its slinky, nagging disco fizz urges even the most ardent of misery guts to frolic blissfully in an evocative haze of Hacienda-tinged catharsis. And that chorus: the titular four words repeated 8 times. It’s uncomplicated and repetitive yet it’s big and bold, and has given the summer festivals a new chant.
But it’s just one segment of the rich new tapestry they’ve created on Falcon. Cross My Heart and Hope To Fly atmospherically ascends to realms they’ve never previously explored; The Opener’s simple chorus of ‘Oooooh-ah’ and emotive lyrics demonstrate Fray’s facile mind wholesomely, while even without his band, as Fray stands alone with just his favourite guitar, his lolling Pete Doherty-like rasp lends itself perfectly to the plaintive The Rest Of The World Has Gone Home.
Every song is met with rapturous applause, and every syllable of each one is hollered back stage-wards. Fray continuously showers the crowd with compliments. “For a Monday night, Nottingham, you have been unreal”. He may say that to all his crowds, but it feels sincere as he shakes his head in humbled appreciation at the intense adoration directed at him and his band.
Even during the lulls – in 1 hour 45 minutes, there was always bound to be a few – the crowd never show their disinterest, even when Lullaby sounds horribly flat and Take Over The World comes across like a discarded Take That b-side.
Fray’s famous muscular rhetoric and his charming ability to self-embellish had been conspicuous by its absence; his gobby, ostentatious tendencies kept under wraps. But he can’t help himself. “There’s no bravado in this band, despite what’s written about us. I just happen to be a mega song-writer, and this lot just happens to be a mega band!” No irony, no messing. He firmly believes it to be true. Who are we to mistake confidence for arrogance and argue with him?
As What Took You So Long? and Not Nineteen Forever bring the show to a climactic finale, our thoughts are once again transported back to Oasis’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. In it there’s a line which reads “Look at you now; you’re all in my hands Tonight”. Very apt. Very apt indeed.