By Calli Ferguson| November 28, 2022
When The Backfires took the Bowery Ballroom stage to open for the UK-based band, Courteeners, they delivered precisely what an opening act should: A stage set for a fun, high-energy night, and an awesome new listen for the audience to come home with.
The Backfires’ sound brought a vibrant energy from the moment they started playing. The performance by frontman, Alex Gomez, was highlighted by his nostalgic, powerful vocals–a sort of James Dean look–and something of soft-Elvis dance moves. Harry Rupert on lead guitar carried us away on his gripping hooks while Matt Walter on bass and Max Wanduragala jammed out stage right adding the alt edge to the band’s vibe. Each musician played off of each other, building on the momentum they’d sparked for the evening ahead.
The Backfires’ sound has noticeable traces of their roots in the London alternative scene. Everyone in the audience felt those early-aughts British rock vibes, regardless of knowing the band’s beginnings. A vibe, by the way, that would be all the more validated by an epic cover of The Arctic Monkeys’ “R U Mine” mid-set. A foursome split equally from NYC and London, there could be no better group to support a Manchester rock band in a downtown Manhattan venue.
Gomez introduced their (unreleased) closing song, “Joyride,” as something of an ode to partying in the East Village. It was our last reminder of where we were before being totally transported to Manchester for the Courteeners show.
When the lights went down in between sets, the crowd maintained the momentum with their meaty chorus of baritone growls and British accents. They sang along to Oasis’ “Morning Glory,” and erupted in the sort of chanting you’d normally hear in a soccer stadium. But for this Saturday evening, it was setting the energy for the lively show at the Bowery Ballroom. And we were so here for it.
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Courteeners striked the first few chords of “Are You In Love With a Notion,” immediately triggering the floor to bounce with the jump of the crowd. It was only a foreshadow to the enthusiasm that would greet nearly every song to come.
Courteeners famously hail from Manchester (the same place, mind you, that brought us bands like Joy Division, The Smiths, and Oasis), and quickly rose from the underground British indie-rock scene to grow a cult-like following and global fanbase in the early 2000s.
Six studio albums later, the band released their latest, More. Again. Forever., in January of 2020. The vulnerable record and their current tour have a sort of breathing-new-life energy about them. In fact, their stop to play back-to-back NYC shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Bowery Ballroom was part of their first live U.S. tour leg in over a decade.
It was a delight to catch them in their beautiful return to the States. You can hear Liam Fray’s clever songwriting and the band’s evident talent in Courteeners’ discography. But what you get from these musicians at a live show is the total experience of their electric energy, welcomely co-created with the audience in front of them.
Howling fans echoed every lyric of every song. Between many, another chant would ensue while Fray breathed easy between cool, confident performances. Among the crowd of Courteeners and Backfires fans, this tangible camaraderie brought a spirited dimension to the show. Great bands tend to create an astounding sense of loyalty around them, and that’s what was so evident in the audience at Bowery Ballroom. As if to say…We want More. Again. Forever.