Review – The Courteeners at Old Trafford, Manchester

Words by Craig Pool. Featured image by Kurt Simmons

Under dark, storm threatening clouds, The Courteeners took to the stage in front of 50,000 fans on Saturday. On the anniversary of the iconic Stone Roses’ gig at Spike Island, this was set to be the defining moment of the Middleton band’s career.

The biggest and most eagerly anticipated gig of the Manchester music calendar came just 5 days after one of the worst nights in the history of the proud city. The events at the Manchester Arena has left deep scars which won’t heal for a long time to come. On Saturday at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, we stood together and celebrated music, unity and most of all that amazing city in the north west.

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Cabbage, Blossoms and The Charlatans had stepped on stage to warm up the masses. Although it’s fair to say that nobody needed warming up, the atmosphere was already special and had been across the city all day.

It was around 8:45 when Liam Fray made his way to the microphone. An emotional rendition of a poem by Mancunian, Ryan Williams came first. “For a time our strut is reduced to a stagger, but make no mistake, we’ll rekindle our swagger.” A line that summed up the night as a whole.

There was an eruption as the band emerged to Morning Glory. Then in true Courteeners fashion the flares went up and filled the venue with colour after the opening chords of Are You In Love With A Notion.

Cavorting, Acrylic and Lucifer’s Dreams followed and raised the atmosphere up a notch, where it remained. Above the chaos, Liam Fray stood tall and proud. He declared that we should keep doing what we’re doing. Keep going to gigs, keep having fun and keep showing love because it’s the best way to stand up to the hate that produced the tragedy of last Monday.

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The set rattled on with all the intensity and power we’ve come to expect. Old favourites like Bide Your Time and Fallowfield Hillbilly were highlights but there was never a low point. Tunes from the latest release, Mapping The Rendezvous sounded huge and didn’t disappoint.

After we’d heard The 17th, Fray came to the front of the stage again, armed with an acoustic guitar. He gave us his solo version of Please Don’t and in tribute to the 22 people who lost their lives a week ago, he sang Don’t Look Back In Anger. The Oasis classic is a true Manc anthem and Noel Gallagher himself said last week that the song is bigger than he ever has been.

It was incredible to witness and something that will stay with every single individual present. It’s hard to overlook as the highlight of the night.

Modern Love and Here Come The Young Men followed before the frontman introduced a tune “For all the radio stations who only know one song!” Not Nineteen Forever made sure the madness continued.

After closing with What Took You So Long, and after the fireworks had burned out, 50,000 people made for the exits. A week to forget had ended with a night to remember, forever. I’m not from Manchester but after being at that gig, the gig of the summer, one thing is clear. The bees definitely still buzz.

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