“You could wait for a lifetime, to spend your days in the sunshine,” drawls Liam Gallagher over the deafening roar of the exuberant, alcohol-fuelled crowd as his namesake Liam Fray struts onto the O2 Academy Stage.
The Courteeners might not own as many bona fide sing-along’s as their Mancunian predecessors, but there’s definitely a similarity in the way the four-piece go about their business. The band rattle through 90 minutes of hits, peppered with tracks from their new album Mapping The Rendezvous, released last month.
Away from their traditional northern stronghold, The Courteeners are still able to command a loyal following of old-school rockers, trendy mods and teenage girls, who surge forwards, eagerly bellowing back the words to opening track ‘Are You in Love With a Notion.’
The atmosphere is sweaty, boozy and boisterous, encouraged by Fray’s macho ‘let’s be having you’ attitude on-stage. “Good evening Brixton,” he calls out, before launching into new track ‘Modern Love,’ which is equally joyously received.
Missing his signature quiff, but still looking every bit a young Morrissey, Fray is in a confident mood as he postures with an array of stunning guitars throughout. He even finds time to slip an acoustic version of rare B-Side ‘Smiths Disco’ into the set at the request of a fan in the front row.
As a lyricist, the frontman is dry, witty and eloquent, making quips on ‘Bide Your Time’ about “gaggles of girls” and skinheads “who cannot handle the booze” There’s certainly one or two of them in attendance at Brixton…
There’s something almost unfortunate about The Courteeners singing songs about love, lust and romance to a room dominated by white, working class men, whose idea of a good time is probably more eight pints of lager and a dirty kebab than dinner and a show.
Fray’s intelligent words on the beautiful ballad that is ‘Take Over The World’ is mostly lost on them, but it doesn’t stop them chanting them back at ear-splitting volume.
The tracks from the bands first two albums still remain a head and shoulders above in terms of quality. New tracks ‘No One Will Ever Replace Us’ and ‘Lucifer’s Dreams’ are catchy enough, but feel somewhat formulaic in comparison to the rough-and-ready frenzy of ‘Cavorting’ and ‘Fallowfield Hillbilly’ from their 2008 debut St Jude.
Dropping the likes of ‘Please Don’t’ to make room for the uninspiring ‘Not For Tomorrow’ and ‘Tip Toes’ is also a questionable decision, not least because Fray struggles to make himself heard over the cacophony of chanting and shouting from the audience on said tracks.
Closing out the set with rip-roaring renditions of their breakthrough singles ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long,’ Fray heads down the front to pose for photos and express his gratitude to the fans, before heading off to universal applause.
Despite this, it’s hard to escape that this was not a vintage Courteeners performance, and there’s definitely a sense of what might have been as the crowds filter out in search of further liquid refreshment (and maybe a kebab.)