On the eve of Melbourne’s hottest day in years, he swaggers on stage in a dark parka and trousers, immediately launching into a 90-minute set with a fire and ferocity that no dude in their mid-40s really has any business wielding. After all these years, and a couple of failed bands and marriages to boot, it’s remarkable to see that Liam Gallagher is still so quintessentially, well, Liam Gallagher: lips in full pout, glaring blankly into the crowd, hands pinned behind his back like he’s about to face a firing squad for even attempting to be a giant rock star in 2018.
Underneath flashing flights, he declares “Tonight, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll star” with the same oversized vigour and belief he’s always had — ever since he and his brother burst out of council estates in the early ‘90s already convinced of their own impending stardom. Tonight, his voice is spot on — in tune, slightly more guttural with age, yet still enormous and convincing. It’s clear he isn’t here as some complacent soft-rock aristocrat, nor even as some redemptive anti-hero in a last-chance saloon. Instead, he’s come before us chock-full of angry, vernal desire.
He growls at the large pack of moshers: “Look at you now you’re all in my hands tonight.” And you can tell he truly believes it, almost demands it. In Gallagher’s world there’s no dallying about, no wrestling with doubts, no sad boy indie-ambivalence. For the last few decades, in and outside his music, he’s snarled at us to go for broke, get on board, or fuck off entirely. The Melbourne crowd obliges — screaming along in unison to every word he sings.
Melbourne’s Festival Hall actually turns out to be a fitting venue for him — after all, it was originally built as a boxing and wrestling arena (quickly becoming known to locals as “the house of stouch.”) Certainly, Liam carries himself like an embattled slugger — a Britpop Balboa — quite grand, and from a time past, but still rather powerful. When he finishes a song, ecstatic chants of “Liam! Liam!” erupt and echo around the arena (something that seems ripped right from the Rocky films).
He belts out ‘Morning Glory’ spectacularly well — a song drenched in an apocalyptic excess of guitars and helicopter blades that’s louder than hell and feels like it could break apart at any moment. Liam’s whole set (even his whole life) feels like it’s teetering on this brink of disaster (will his voice blow out? will he storm off stage? will the new tracks bomb?). But, this just makes the fact that he’s (somehow) pulling all these songs off all the more outrageous and thrilling.
Even the new ones from his solo “comeback” album, As You Were, go down just as well as the Oasis hits. His rendition of ‘For What it’s Worth’ — a sweet and earnest apology, supposedly to his ex-wife — becomes a soaring arena-wide shout-along.
On another new one, ‘Bold,’ Gallagher’s trademark bravado makes way for a plaintive tune about masculine stubbornness. From what I can gather, it’s a defiant anthem about refusing to use his lover’s brand of soap? It’s silly, but also disarmingly endearing: the aging rock n roller isn’t ashamed to reveal where his life’s at now (whether it involves breaking up with women over their choice of cosmetics, or having to now make his own cups of tea).
He knows there’s no going back to those golden days where he reigned supreme as one of rock’s last truly global phenoms — but that doesn’t mean he can’t still thrash about at the end of history. Really, that’s what tonight feels like — what listening to Oasis has always felt like — being introduced to a party that should’ve already ended.
Yet, here we all are, in 2018, a crowd of thousands jumping and screaming in front of an old guy in a thick jacket he has no business wearing in this climate banging out ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ and ‘Wonderwall’ to close a wonderful set.
If this is rock music’s pathetic afterglow, we don’t even care — because, truthfully and unashamedly, we’ve all been enjoying it way too bloody much.