By Missy Schwartz
March 28, 2009 at 05:07 AM EDT

Meet the Courteeners, a two-year-old indie rock band from Manchester looking to follow up their success in the U.K. with a splashy debut in the U.S. And how might they achieve that lofty goal? Why, by counting fellow Mancunian — and object of eternal, stage-jumping fan devotion — Morrissey as an admirer. The ex-Smiths frontman was, in fact, so taken with the Courteeners that he asked them to join his current U.S. tour as his opening act. As introductions go, it doesn’t get much better than that. “It’s a lovely stamp of approval,” lead singer Liam Fray told the Music Mix the day after their March 27 show at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. “So far, we’ve got an absolutely phenomenal reaction. I’ve been taken aback by it.”

Even more surprising, of course, was learning that Morrissey was a fan. “He came to watch us at a small gig in London. He turned up, got out of the taxi outside, and came up to me. He was like, ‘Are you any good?’ recalls Fray. “I was like, ‘Yeah we’re very good. Come and watch us.’ And he came and he stayed for the whole set. After the gig, he came downstairs and knocked on the door and had a drink with us and stayed for a chit-chat. He was a true gent. A good man. I love the Smiths, and they’re a huge influence on us. If somebody you hold in such high esteem turns around and says they enjoy what you do, well, it’s a very big thing for me, personally.” So far, Morrissey has kept to himself on tour, but Fray’s not complaining. “Watching him perform every night—it’s amazing how he’s still got it.” (It just so happens that this Music Mix writer was lucky enough to attend the Carnegie Hall show and can confirm that Fray’s assessment is 100 percent accurate. Moz was in delightfully hammy spirits, chatting liberally with the crowd between songs and ripping off his shirt not once, but twice. He also played “Death of a Disco Dancer.” No bad can ever come of that.)

Here’s a video of the Courteeners’ “What Took You So Long,” which Morrissey covered last fall when he appeared on KCRW. They’ll be on tour with him through April 17, when they play the Coachella festival in Indio, California.