By Edward Burnett
When I saw Noel Gallagher live last summer, something hadn’t quite sat right with me. Yes, the talent was there. Yes, the Oasis classics were being played. Yet, I found myself thinking that something was missing. Could what I had just witnessed be described truly as rock ‘n roll? The next natural step was to go to a Liam Gallagher concert and see if I found what was missing. A year later I was able to attend Liam’s gig at Newcastle’s Utilita Arena this past Sunday.
Anticipation was high among the Pretty Green wearing, Stone Island clad crowd as the lights dimmed, summoning what everyone had been waiting for, NME’s very own ‘Godlike Genius’, Liam Gallagher. Walking out to ‘F**kin in the Bushes’ in his trademark, carefree strut, Gallagher went straight into Definitely Maybe’s hit, ‘Rock n Roll Star’, to open the night. He couldn’t have picked a more aptly titled song to kick off the gig with as the performance that followed was one of the highest calibre in the rock and roll genre.
The setlist consisted of a perfect mix between his solo projects and the legendary Oasis anthems. Following the opening song, he went on to play ‘Halo’, ‘Shockwave’ and ‘Wall of Glass’ before mellowing on ‘Paper Crown’. It was refreshing to be shown that Liam is capable of both writing and performing well-produced solo songs which failed to look out of place in amongst the backdrop of such classic Oasis tunes. Shockwave and Wall of Glass’ galvanised an already bouncing crowd, adding a new level to the energy being displayed, with the verses as well as the choruses being belted out from all corners of the arena. Again, highly impressive considering both are only recent solo songs that are now in setlist royalty and rightly so judging by the effects produced. If truth be told, Paper Crown’s inclusion with its far slower pace was predominantly present for the crowd to catch a breather and regain their voices after a whirlwind first twenty minutes. To captivate an audience with songs that were released less than two months ago, especially when many will have attended for Oasis-led reasons, is not only an amazing feat but a testament to the rock and roll days of past.
Moreover, Liam’s handling of the Oasis hits definitely (not even maybe) did not disappoint either. ‘Morning Glory’s’ drum beat rattled the stadium, with the ground shaking throughout. ‘Stand by Me’ with Bonehead’s introduction allowed for the level of excitement to be raised off the scale for a crowd that hadn’t stopped singing all night. Then with ‘Wonderwall’ to finish the set was a perfect ending to summarise the vibe of the gig, as the words were sung so loudly by the Fred Perry wearing faithful that it was even hard to hear Gallagher himself. Ballads such as these with their effects on crowds show just how timeless and influential Liam Gallagher is. No matter how young or old, these are songs that can be enjoyed, showed by Gallagher’s own son Gene coming on to play drums for ‘The River’. Finally, as if the crowd were not already rocked out, Gallagher took to the stage for an encore comprising of massive Oasis hits with ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’ all being played along with Gallagher cheekily devoting ‘Roll with It’ to ex-Newcastle United striker Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne. Then he eventually ended with a lively rendition of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. That tongue in cheek humour was shown throughout by the former Oasis frontman, from talking of Newcastle United’s Longstaff footballing brothers to ridiculing the technical team after two false starts with ‘Be Still’.
So, to answer my initial query of what was missing from Noel’s set last summer, it’s the swagger, the attitude and boldness of a true frontman. Someone who captivates the audience and owns the venue. Liam, through his humour, brashness and strut, emulated this image perfectly for the Newcastle faithful. Yes, Noel wrote many of those Oasis songs but when he performs them live without Liam, it’s a different atmosphere: it’s just not Oasis, it’s just not rock and roll. Whether Oasis will ever reform or not in the future is a whole other issue for another day, but Liam has certainly proved many of his doubters wrong about how successful a solo venture could be. While he keeps on producing performances like that, rock and roll lives on. True rock that leaves the listener feeling electric, thrilled or maybe even just a little supersonic. Why him? Why not.