The Courteeners at Victoria Theatre, Halifax

The CourteenersThe Courteeners
The Courteeners
If there’s three things in life that still feel quantifiably certain in this post-Covid era, it’s death, taxes and half-drunk beers being wildly upended all over the shop whenever Courteeners frontman Liam Fray burbles into the microphone.

Like the sun setting in the west, or the heartbreak of an England sporting failure, there’s a well-practiced surety to this fact; almost as if it is an intrinsic part of nature.

You wouldn’t guess it on this basis but the Middleton trio – fronted by Fray with guitarist Daniel Moores and drummer Michael Campbell – might just be Britain’s biggest cult band.

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Few artists occupy such a geographic specificity quite like them; head below Birmingham, and they struggle to sell out 5,000-capacity shows. Stay north and they’re bonafide festival headliners with a stadium pedigree; they arrive here having topped the bill at Glasgow’s TRNSMT and have a supersized show at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this weekend.

This 1,850-capped Halifax gig is ostensibly an intimate warm-up, and certainly it isn’t too common for the now-veteran indie rockers to play halls of this size in West Yorkshire. But there’s clearly a consideration for history – it is no mistake that the band have returned to the Victoria Theatre for the first time since they played it one day after the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, again as a lead-in for a massive homecoming performance.

Fray – shaggily cut and with a showman swagger that can’t quite hide how much being back on the road here means to him with the weight of modern history – makes only passing reference, but he need not. Instead, this is firmly a night where the music does the talking, and every chord is met with exalted cheers or grown men wearing bedsheets hoisted aloft in the crowd.

It’s a testament to their maturation that some of their best songs are their most recent – the pulsing synth-rock of The 17th and the stirring melancholy of Hanging Off Your Cloud sit easily next to staples like Are You in Love with a Notion? and Not Nineteen Forever, songs that have cemented their place as premier anthem merchants. It comes down to a giddy pogo through What Took You So Long?, one that sends all remaining drops and gulps of alcohol airborne.

A year-and-a-half on the sidelines hasn’t dimmed this group’s life-affirming sonic skills; they’ve clearly still got the power to pick up where they left off.

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