It was always destined to be an emotional homecoming for Liam Gallagher’s first solo gig previewing material from his long-awaited forthcoming solo album. On his merchandise stall, he’s flogging T-shirts emblazoned with the question: “Who the fuck is Liam Gallagher?”. Match-fit at 44, tonight he left no-one in doubt of precisely who the fuck he is – and that he’s back in the game.
“Normal business has resumed”
From the moment you hear ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ – frequently used as Oasis’s walk-on music – the signal is clear. Despite a week where Manchester has been in harrowing flux, Liam is back, reliably the same as ever. Clad in a cagoule and brandishing a tambourine with intent, he announces “You are you, we are you, we are all together,” before his four-piece band – which includes Drew McConnell from Babyshambles – shudder into a monstrously powerful rendition version of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.
Stoned by deafening chants of “Liam! Liam!”, the icon sums up the mood when he declares defiantly: “Normal business has resumed,” as the raucous crowd baptize each other with tossed pints.
The spectre of recent events naturally still hangs over proceedings
From the swarming police presence outside to tightened security, reminders that this is city raw and still healing loom large. All profits from tonight have been donated to the Manchester Evening News fund-raising appeal, while – in an especially touching move – Liam performs a spine-tingling encore of ‘Live Forever’ a capella in front of 22 flickering candles, one for each of the victims of the Ariana Grande attack eight days ago – their memory still incandescent tonight.
Before he reappeared, the throng had chanted “Stand up for the 22”; 1,500 voices united as one. It’s particularly moving because Oasis have become scions of the city’s resilience – ever since a group of Mancunians spontaneously erupted into a rendition of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ after a minute’s silence. It makes sense. What critics often sneerily call ‘bands of the people’, Oasis specialised in unifying, hug-a-stranger anthems, which could elevate you and temporarily remove you from your bleak surroundings. Now we need that more than ever. Though Liam doesn’t play ‘Don’t Look Back….’, the communal choir launch into their heartfelt version long after he’s exited the stage – along with a fearless terrace chant of ‘You can shove your fucking ISIS up your arse’, to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy And You Know It’.
The setlist is heavily skewed towards new material
Seven out of his 12-song setlist is dedicated to showcasing new material from his solo debut album, ‘As You Were’ – due out in October. Questions have loomed about how Liam would fare without the organ-grinder of Noel, and he’s partly enlisted established popsmiths like Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt to provide “fucking big songs”.
The merch stand – which is selling bucket hats and T-shirts with ‘RKID’ in the style of the Oasis logo – gives you an idea of the back-to-basics approach to expect. From the swaggering lad-rock of own-composition ‘Greedy Soul’ and the more reflective ‘Bold’ (first teased in 2015) to widescreen ballad ‘Paper Crown’, the new tunes come across like the platonic ideal of what a Liam Gallagher album should sound like. The glam-stomp of ‘You’d Better Run You’d Better Hide’ and festival-primed chorus of ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be What Way’ are greeted warmly, while ‘Wall of Glass’ and ‘Universal Gleam’ sound new but instantly familiar. There’s nothing here that would prompt you to consult the NHS Choices website to find out how to treat shock, but – on the evidence of tonight – it’s shaping up to be his strongest arsenal of songs in years. No wonder he feels confident enough to play four new numbers in a row without tossing in a Oasis sop.
He played ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ and ‘Slide Away’
Which packed more of a punch than a left-hook from Ricky Hatton, who’s in the audience tonight, alongside members of Blossoms and The Courteeners.
An Oasis reunion happened….
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one everyone was hoping for. Despite rumours of a possible end to the Liam/Noel fraternal feuding – sparked by Liam tweeting birthday wishes to Noel on his 50th – there’s no onstage rapprochement tonight. Instead, it’s ex-Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs who joins him onstage for an incendiary performance of ‘Be Here Now’, as the last song before the encore.
The crowd continued the setlist…
It’s not just ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, they’re belting out an impassioned jukebox’s worth of Oasis tracks – including ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’, each of which seemed to gain a renewed relevance.