Review: Liam Fray at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

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Classy

Liam Fray successfully delivered an outstanding acoustic intimate hit-filled night

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Despite being unsure of what to expect from what was to be my first exclusively acoustic gig, I was however certain that if anyone was to deliver it successfully it would be The Courteeners frontman Liam Fray. With the ever present die-hard fan base in full voice, and a wealth of songs to dip into, as I took my place at the barrier I was anticipating a night to remember.

The Adonis of a man strutted out onto the darkened stage after the crowd’s quick rendition of ‘Hushabye Mountain’ followed by the football-hooligan-esque chants of “Liam, Liam”. With his guitar dwarfed by the sheer stature of the man, he held the rowdy audience in awe throughout the twenty-four song set. Opening with ‘How Come’ from Courteeners’ debut album ‘St. Jude’, Liam powered through the packed set list taking songs from across all five albums of his discography. For a set entirely consisting of acoustic renditions, with only Liam on stage with his guitar accompanied by a pianist for the vast majority of the evening, the night was far from subdued. It only took five songs before Liam gave into the crowds’ request for ‘Wonderwall’ before seamlessly slipping into the much underappreciated ‘St. Jude’ B-side ‘Yesterday, Today & Probably Tomorrow’. In a night that was rife with heckles and requests, Fray was exceptional in keeping the crowd together, lacing the night with a hefty amount of hits from ‘Bide Your Time’ to ‘Are You in Love with a Notion’.

Throughout the night Fray and the crowd alike became rather tired of some of the audiences constant shouting in between songs, refusing to listen to the artist we all had travelled to see, but the experienced frontman handled it with absolute class, continuing to rapidly rip through as many songs as possible before the eleven o’clock curfew. The intimate setting was the perfect place to allow fans to interact, with the man directly behind me getting two guitar picks and a firm hug from his hero after showing him his ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ tattoo. Fray then followed this up by dedicating ‘Chipping Away’ to the committed fan, before an array of dedications; one to another persistent heckler, one to the exceptional support act Carnival Club, and also to the rest of his band members who allowed these small intimate gigs to come to fruition. Any expectations of a languid evening were firmly put to rest as the crowd bellowed out the words to ‘International’ with as much conviction as anyone would expect from the notoriously lively Courteeners loyal following.

After leaving the stage for the compulsory wait in the wings before the inevitable encore, Fray returned to a crowd again chanting his name in adoration. Following on from ‘The Rest of the World Has Gone Home’, the best moment of the night for me came when we were treated to a cover of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’ transitioning into the biggest hit of the night ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, which was greeted with the usual exhilaration. With the gig expected to end on the regular high note of Courteeners’ most prominent tune, Fray also treated the crowd to ‘What Took You So Long’ after asking if there was enough time for another song. For all the crowd’s fault, there was no denying that there was a mutual passion for Fray’s music shared across the room, and ultimately the night was a resounding success. It was a night that showcased the pure talent, and also a more emotional side than perhaps we’re used to, of a man who will never let a crowd leave disappointed.

After the show at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth on the 24th October, Fray continues his tour which will finish with two dates in his hometown Manchester on the 3rd and 4th November.

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