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.
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.