Liam Gallagher Embodies His Biblical Rock ‘N’ Roll Star At The O2

“Biblical, celestial rock star” proclaim the billboards outside The O2. While Liam Gallagher didn’t quite reach the status of the second coming, his Definitely Maybe retrospective proved not only that he’s still got the star status he cemented three decades ago, but also that his music doesn’t just rely on nostalgia to capture the imagination. Of course, every single one of the twenty thousand people at the sold-out arena show knew Gallagher’s setlist intimately like you’d know a friend from childhood, but even if they weren’t the stuff of legends? Definitely Maybe still holds up as a damn good rock album, and Gallagher as a performer who deserves to fill stadiums.

Liam Gallagher @ The O2

Liam Gallagher @ The O2 (Abigail Shii)
Liam Gallagher @ The O2 (Abigail Shii)

Opening tonight are a Villanelle, fronted by Liam’s son Gene Gallagher as well as fellow Britpop mainstays Cast. And while Gene brings his father’s careless abandon to the fore, Cast deliver a raucous set derived from 1995 debut LP All Change and newest offering Love Is The Call.

From the second the show opens, dead on time, one thing is obvious. Gallagher is focused and taking this tour very seriously. He barely talks to the crowd, aside from joking that “we’re gonna rattle off a few old things. I know it sounds a bit naughty and a bit kinky and a bit Wayne Rooney.” He hardly moves around the stage aside from patrolling a small area in his instantly-recognisable swagger, his hands tucked neatly behind his back to sing at the centre of a pulpit of monitors. It’s clear he wants to celebrate the music, rather than himself: an unexpectedly mature move which pays off. Waves of fists raise as the opening chords of Rock ‘N’ Roll Star ring out and for a few seconds we’re all rock ‘n’ roll stars along with him.

Thirty years is a long time, and the songs which came across as wistful on their release are now sung with the weight of the now 51-year-old’s naturally aging voice. This adds a poignancy which seemed ironic in the youthful Britpop era, and never was this more beautiful than on Half The World Away, a b-side traditionally sung by Noel Gallagher. The tribute to chances lost and holidays never taken has ben claimed by the crowd as we take the vocal lead for ourselves. For a fraction of a second, Gallagher clenches his fist in emphasis then catches himself, dropping his hand back into his pocket while an organ-clenching burst of keyboard reopens and soothes our old wounds in turn.

For all the fullness of the mod-ish piling of piano and guitar on Fade Away, or the elegant tone of regret and Paul Weller-style organ haunting the distorted whirlpools of Married With Children, there’s a hole at the heart of Gallagher’s sound. Noel Gallagher reportedly turned down an offer of an Oasis reunion early this year, and the brothers allegedly haven’t spoken in years, but his presence (or lack thereof) is keenly felt. Lock All The Doors, an Oasis demo that re-emerged as a High Flying Birds track was dedicated to Noel earlier on the Definitely Maybe tour: tonight, it’s for “some cunt”. Liam takes his incarnation of the song in a darker direction, mashing post-punk loops of guitar with the kind of raw energy Neil Young poured into his early live albums. Gallagher isn’t trying to be Oasis tonight, and he knows he can’t be. He’s paying tribute to a record that holds a special place in many hearts, including, it seems, his own, even to the point that he’s willing to make a very public peace offering to his brother.

The space left by Noel is patched by the sheer force of personality Gallagher Jr. displays in himself and through his music. Supersonic’s disjointed, crashing guitar is raw and dark with each cut. For a brief moment the house lights go up and we realise we’re alive and part of this experience that is exponentially bigger than our combined numbers – some 20,000 tonight, and each night of his 4-night residency at The O2. “This one’s for all the love birds, all the lovely little love birds,” Gallagher calls out to introduce Live Forever, and it’s like we’re gripping the jagged shard of the quintessence of Oasis. You just want to dive into the atmosphere of this song and swim through it, such is the immersion created by the emotions each twist of the key-change knife carves into you. The Beatles’ influence on Gallagher’s sound is rendered obvious as I Am The Walrus opens, the song’s absurdism is now rough and vibrant against the hazy and hallucinogenic tone. The sixties, nineties and twenty twenties are colliding, and these three minutes are the gloriously melodic wreckage.

Just as the nonsense words of the Beatles’ classic reach fever pitch, Liam Gallagher steps away from the microphone and stands up straight, his hands behind his back, the expression of a proud drill instructor at a passing-out parade on his face as his iconic bucket hat casts a silhouette against the wall. He looks down on the absolute joy and adoration he’s created, and he’s satisfied. While this isn’t one of those embarrassing nineties reunion shows that somehow seem to get booked at London largest indoor arena, far from it in fact, this is a show this reflects a legacy. Thirty years ago, Liam Gallagher was part of a band that made an album that altered the shape of music in the UK forever, and those songs, now polished to a brilliant shiiine by years of tears and singalongs, are still the absolute game-changers we always remembered they were.

Review of Liam Gallagher at The O2, London on 10th June 2024 by Kate Allvey, photography by Abigail Shii

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