In 2014 it seemed as though Liam Gallagher had lost almost everything.
The demise of Oasis robbed him of Noel Gallagher’s songbook, while Beady Eye’s two widely panned albums risked turning the frontman into a caricature of himself.
With his divorce from Nicole Appleton becoming finalised, the singer referred to himself as perennially pub bound, a “fucking dosser” trapped by the inertia of his own career.
The fact that Liam Gallagher can take back the Oasis songbook, deftly write Beady Eye out of history, and blaze back out on to centre stage at North London’s Finsbury Park in front of 20,000 fans is literally astonishing, one of the sharpest, most well-executed comebacks we’ve seen in some time.
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But then, Liam was always a man of the people. A working class icon, he has fought back against ruthless pastiche to re-claim ownership of the Liam Gallagher brand, the self-appointed keeper of the Oasis flame, the King of the Parka Monkeys who wants to rule over us (purely to make sure we’re all having a good time, of course).
Richard Ashcroft gives a rousing warm up set, armed only with an acoustic and a glittering harrington jacket. Still a rock ‘n’ roll star, he leans on the classics, ending with a deft, louche, and quietly emphatic ‘Bittersweet Symphony’.
And then it’s time for the man himself. The screens light up with Liam swaggering through the backstage area, the sound of Oasis’ biting, Led Zep fuelled ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ leading the way. Raging straight into ‘Rock N Roll Star’ it’s clear that Liam isn’t here for a long time, he’s here for a good time, the smiling yet rock-still zen centre at the heart of the madness.
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Dipping into his debut solo album, a raucous ‘Wall Of Glass’ is then matched by ‘For What It’s Worth’, a kind of statement about Liam 2.0; it’s a little wiser, perhaps even a little more humble, but it certainly wants to be the focus of your attention.
Casting his eyes back once more to the Oasis songbook, Liam throws fans a few surprises. B-side ‘Listen Up’ is both blistering and rueful, with that cute guitar line sitting alongside the frontman’s remonstrations that he really “don't mind being on my own”.
‘Slide Away’ is aching and anthemic, one of the most perfect encapsulations of Oasis’ mixture of all-out bravado and helpless introspection. Relishing the role of the underdog once more, Liam ends the main set with ‘Whatever’, his former band’s attempt at a Christmas number one that came within inches of claiming the Big Prize on its 1995 release.
Returning refreshed to the stage, Liam plummets into ‘Supersonic’ before following this with a rousing version of Oasis’ first number one single ‘Some Might Say’. The anthems continue with staggering nonchalance; ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ rightfully delights in the “sunshiiiiiiiiine” before an emotional ‘Live Forever’ drops the pace a little.
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Keeping the surprises flowing Liam then drops in ‘D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman’, a dole queue anthem first sneaked out as an Oasis B-side and one that hasn’t featured live in any form for over 20 years. ‘Wonderwall’ brings the set to a close, a song that has developed a life of its own almost from the second it first hit British radio. An open mic classic, a pub singalong necessity, it’s a modern folk song, a binding tie across two decades.
Some things change, and some things don’t. Back then, Oasis were the living embodiment of Mark E. Smith’s phrase “Northern white trash that spoke back”. Perhaps with a stifling economy, the widespread revulsion at the political classes, and ongoing fissure that is Brexit we shouldn’t be surprised that this songbook – so full of pride, the refusal to be pushed to the sidelines – resonates so clearly, so passionately, with such a great number of people.
But it resonates most greatly of all with Liam Gallagher, the world’s biggest fan not just of Oasis but – once more – of himself.
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Photography: Holly Whitaker
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