Since the split of Oasis over a decade ago, the debate has continued on just who made the era-defining band what it was. While Noel Gallagher’s development and experimentation as a solo artist brings a more innovative aspect to the group’s legacy, brother Liam has satisfied the ongoing appetite for the sort of no-nonsense raw energy that only he could bring. Noel may have the songs, but Liam has the edge. As well as being the unmistakable voice of a thrilling rock n roll outfit, Liam Gallagher embedded even the most tender anthems with something unique.
With the last few years being a definite resurgence that has seen his first two solo albums reach Number 1, lockdown throughout a lot of 2020 has probably left him with a major urge to get back onto a stage again. Live shows in front of audiences still not possible at the moment, Gallagher and his band jumped aboard a boat to play a gig while sailing down the Thames, filmed brilliantly for a special live stream. The proper return of live music in the UK seems a long way off yet, and in times like these, people need these songs.
Oasis rhythm guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs gives Liam’s band a major boost: his playing style was a major part of the “wall of noise” during the Definitely Maybe era, and when backing Liam Gallagher, this means we have a group playing that features two original members of Oasis. The same number of original members who played in Oasis for over half their career, albeit not the same two members who with each passing year seem more and more unlikely to ever reunite.
At times it’s easy to forget that the man who wrote the songs isn’t present, since the voice that delivered them so brilliantly is in the spotlight. Very much in the same way that Lieber and Stoller running through their classic compositions wouldn’t have had quite the same impact as an Elvis performance, Noel’s renditions of old classics provide a different take that never attempts to match the ferocious delivery of his younger brother.
With Liam Gallagher dressed in a winter hat and sunglasses as night slowly transforms the London sky, the set kicks off with 1995’s ‘Hello’, snarling vocals handled with ease. His band have never sounded better on what is commanding curtain-raiser. Tonight shows that it’s not just about the past; ‘Wall Of Glass’ sounds mighty as the floating rock and roll show sails triumphantly past the Dome, and ‘Halo’ packs an infectious punch along with a daft recorder solo from Liam himself. As far as visuals go, the lights of the London night sky from the Thames are a hard setting to beat. The usually swaggering ‘Shockwave’ is subdued somewhat by slightly flat performance, before Bonehead returns for a ferocious ‘Columbia’, Gallagher’s voice again absolutely spot-on. Close your eyes and it could almost be 1994 again. It’s amazing to hear the voice at full throttle on a most welcome blast through ‘Fade Away’, a song not performed in years.
A slightly off-key ‘Why Me Why Not?’ leaves you wondering why songs recorded relatively recently were written in a higher key than is within Liam Gallagher’s range as a live vocalist, but a study ‘Greedy Soul’ comes across a lot better. The setting means an ideal opportunity to give ‘The River’ the moment it was made for, as the band stare ahead towards the oncoming London Bridge. The stunning slowie ‘Once’ is embedded with the additional authority of a magnificent vocal turn as the boat passes underneath the bridge. We get a powerful ‘Morning Glory’, and a particularly fun ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, two songs almost obligatory in Liam’s sets. However, hearing the lesser-played Oasis gems is bound to be a treat.
Raucous mid 90’s B side ‘Headshrinker’ making an appearance is astonishing enough, the fact that Liam can still nail its furious vocal is even more miraculous – Crazy even. On a menacing ‘Supersonic’ even slightly ill-fitting keyboards cannot blunt its edge, and after a majestic, understated ‘Champagne Supernova’ echoes across the moonlit waters, altogether the show seems slightly too short. Then after the credits comes an immaculate performance of the glorious new single ‘All You’re Dreaming Of’, powered by commanding vocals far superior to the studio version, adding more authority to the song’s warming beauty.
Maybe his band have spent lockdown rehearsing and sharpening up, and perhaps more time to recover and sustain the voice in between songs (presuming quite a bit of editing was employed by the filmmakers) has benefitted the quality of this memorable performance. Whatever the reason, tonight Liam Gallagher proves just why people regard him as the voice of a generation and a genuine legend.