There’s something so invigorating about a Christmas gig. For the artist(s) it can often be a twelfth man (sorry for the football analogy) as they raise their game way above the usual standard. Last night was no exception.

The Courteeners came to London’s Shepherds Bush Empire for the second of a nine date UK tour. The venue was packed and its audience in a frantic mood. Long before the band appeared on stage a number of half-chugged plastic beer glasses had been launched from rear to front and once the first few seconds of ‘Are You In Love With A Notion’ had passed you realised this was going to be a special evening.

It was immediately clear that those who had holiday to use “or lose it” were doing so as the beer flowed and the prospect of Wednesday at work became increasingly unlikely. A bearded Liam Frey and his bunch of merry men reacted and pushed through a set of the highest quality. There were the old favourites of course but it was tracks from the latest album ‘Anna’ that came across as the most impressive. ‘Lose Control’ and the outstanding ‘Van Der Graaff’ were unexpected highlights, with the former causing mass air-punching for as far as the eye could see. You simply couldn’t help but be carried along with it.

It was tracks from debut ‘St.Jude’ and follow-up ‘Falcon’ that turned the audience into overnight Karaoke stars. The band could have stopped playing for ‘Cavorting’ and ‘Please Don’t’ as the crowd sang with the type of vigour and excitement you can’t script. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen that sort of audience participation at a gig, and graciously the band responded as the set from that point just got better and better.

The encore was predictable but nevertheless breath-taking. ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ will always be one of those songs you never bore of seeing live. It should be prescribed on the NHS as it remains one of the most uplifting experiences you’ll find.

The arrogance I saw when they supported Morrissey at Hyde Park in 2008 (O2 Wireless Festival) has gone. In its place is a genuine talent with an uncompromising desire to entertain.

Sod your Christmas works party, drinks with friends you haven’t seen for months or years … get yourself a ticket for one of the remaining dates. You will not regret it. Bravo Courteeners.

 

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