THE opening line of the opening number from Courteeners second album, Falcon, reads;

“I’ve been away I’ve been working, but now I’m back, and I need to know if you’re still there, and I need to know if you still care.”

Manchester still cares, if seven sold-out nights at the O2 Apollo are anything to go by.

The final leg of this winter tour sees the Middleton band return to the city which holds them in high regard and to the fans who see their front man Liam Fray as a living legend.

Kicking off the stint last night, the band had to put the problems that have niggled away throughout the tour: their bassist leaving, a gig being cancelled, and a smoke bomb being thrown on stage, behind them, and deliver for their loyal following.

And they did.

credit: Rob Needham
The Courteeners live at the Apollo (Credit: Rob Needham)

You know what you’re getting at a Courteeners gig. A, to quote their song ‘Bide Your Time’, a “gaggle of girls singing too loud”, merged with the atmosphere you would expect at the Manchester Derby.

Oasis’ ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory?’ was the bands walk on music, which got the crowd into a frenzy, and the opening four songs got the band off to a flyer, with perennial opener ‘Are You In Love With A Notion?’, followed by classics from their debut, ‘Cavorting’, ‘Acrylic’ and ‘Kings Of The New Road’.

A microphone malfunction saw ‘Please Don’t’ almost die a quick death, until the crowd, in a desperate attempt to resuscitate, succeeded, and sang the entire first verse and chorus.

The new charity single ‘Winter Wonderland’ followed ‘Bide Your Time’, ‘Sycophant’ and ‘Lose Control’ saw Fray make an emotional plea to help the homeless around Manchester, to cheers of admiration from the crowd.

Fray’s now regular acoustic slot two-thirds through the set saw the live debut of ‘Three Months’, the return of ‘No You Didn’t No You Don’t’ to Manchester for the first time in many a moon, and everyone’s favourite B-side ‘Smiths Disco’.

With the band returning to the stage for the encore, the crowd sensed the end was coming near, and thus proceeded to make every song count, singing along to ‘Here Come The Young Men’, ‘Next Time You Call’, and now the encore main stayer ‘Beautiful Head’.

Everyone knew what was coming next as soon as Liam Fray uttered the words ‘Are you ready to cause some structural damage Manchester?’

The keyboards began, and everybody composed themselves, the drums come in and the crowd were on their tip-toes, and with the first strike of the guitar, the crowd became what can only be described as a sea of limbs, for the bands biggest hit ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, something this reviewer wishes he could have seen from above.

‘What Took You So Long?’ closed the shows as is usually does, with a flare in the standing area representing the light that will never go out for Courteeners, the Manchester band of the 00’s and 10’s.

By Connor Devine

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