A knock-out performance from the Manchester group...

"London. London. London. I will make this really quick...” confides an excited Liam Fray. “When we first played the Water Rats we were told it was gonna be very hard because we were from the North".

Even if he is wrong, you kind of know what he is getting at. Tonight Courteeners bring northern grit to the south, gracing London with an enormous show and playing to a crowd that have been keeping warm to the angelic sounds of ‘She Bangs the Drums’ and ‘Morning Glory’, and prior to that, a special set from Liverpudlian tunesmiths The Coral.

Being honest, it is close to impossible to think of a better starting point. The venue presents its own set of limitations, but Courteeners show that it is more than possible to create something special as long as you know your stuff. Olympia is not amazing as a concert venue, but once this has been established, it puts everything else that unfolds into perspective.

Unsurprisingly, Liam Fray and his cohorts are on fine form as they churn out all the favourites, one by one. It is a satisfying and neatly collated set of a length and running order that just feels right. Organised into three main parts it contains a belters section, a string followed by an acoustic section, and then of course, there is an encore.

Given that their new album ‘More.Again.Forever’ is due out in January it makes sense to trial some tracks from it including new stomper ‘Heart Attack’, the darkly textured ‘Heavy Jacket’, an acoustic version of the softer ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’ as much as the title track itself.

On a night such as this one, the good old songs are nearly always going to be the actual deal breakers and include ‘Are You In Love With a Notion’, ‘Cavorting’, ‘Bide Your Time’ ‘What Took You So Long’ and ‘Not Nineteen Forever’. As the lighting set up at the venue seems sparse, the videos and monitors probably serve more as a useful function than an artistic one.

The string section is a breath of fresh air. Enhancing the melodic nuances, it adds sonic texture and dimension, the arrangements work a fine treat. To give ‘You Overdid It Doll’ this type of treatment is ideal.

“Has anybody ever heard of ‘Smiths Disco’ “, teases Fray. |It is a good night if you ever go”, he insists. An exhilarating and fun version, it represents a clear highlight. Another stand- alone moment of the night is an energetic delivery of ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, more precisely, when all hands are in their air and everyone participates belting out each and every word.

Above and beyond, Courteeners remain an enormous force to be reckoned with, and it will be fascinating to see what else they have store for us. Having their sixth studio album scheduled to drop in January makes for an exciting start to the year and things can easily get juicier.

All we have to do is wait and see.

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Words: Susan Hansen

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