Review: Liam Gallagher at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
Stark weather warnings, a Manchester derby and (ahem) the I’m a Celebrity finale – Liam Gallagher’s Sunday night gig in the city of Nottingham had a lot to contend with.
It’s after 9pm and the countdown has begun. Up front, close to the stage, Britpop veterans like me sway alongside exuberant new disciples, the latter full of wide-eyed anticipation and one too many lagers. Everyone’s clocking their watches and hoping that snow’s not put paid to this sell-out show.
We should have known that blocked roads couldn’t stop a force of nature like Liam Gallagher. Suddenly the lights drop low. The pounding spine-tingler of an entrance tune F*ckin’ In The Bushes shakes the foundations and out from a storm of rapid-fire white lights strolls the man himself. Add his scowling swagger to the crowd’s glorious reaction and you’ve got what has to be the most heart-thumpy, goosebumpy walk-on I’ve ever witnessed.
He’s looking good. The hair’s shorter and the face more mature (like a fine Mancunian wine), but the attitude remains as deliciously arrogant as back in the day.
What else could he open with but Rock ‘n’ Roll Star? You see in 2017, the year he sauntered back into the nation’s consciousness and totally owned everyone who crossed him, Gallagher’s not just ‘a’ rock ‘n’ roll star, he’s the only genuine one left.
His voice has always echoed cigarette and alcohol-soaked nights and whilst this distinctive texture remains, tonight, solo Gallagher’s vocals are the richest they’ve ever been. He swiftly follows up with Morning Glory, delivered with his trademark static but mesmeric intensity.
Next up is a powerful pack of tunes plucked from his number one-selling debut album As You Were – the T. Rex-esque Greedy Soul, the kick-ass Wall Of Glass (dedicated to Manchester United, who lost to his beloved City earlier in the day), the truly beautiful classic-in-waiting Paper Crown, the full-bodied crowd-pleasing anthem that’s packed with Lennon-y goodness Bold and For What It’s Worth, wonderfully heartfelt and string-soaked.
The pick and mixing continues, with stand-outs including fan super-favourite Rockin’ Chair and Come Back To Me, another solo track, preceded by an affectionate shout out to film director Shane Meadows.
It’s one of the few things Gallagher actually says; one in a series of short but sweet or stinging soundbites and dedications. That’s the joy of Gallagher, he’s incapable of being beige or treading the ‘in between’. If he doesn’t love you, woe betide you. Another wonder of this son of Burnage is how, working only a tambourine or maracas (neither of which are shaken with particular ferocity), and the absolute refusal to add so much as a hip shake to proceedings, he manages to have a crowd of thousands eating out of his hands (which, for the record, are still firmly clasped behind his back). Even when he pulls up the hood of his anorak three-quarters way through the show (and never takes it down again), you still can’t take your eyes off him.
Cigarettes & Alcohol and a captivating cello-accompanied version of Live Forever make up the first encore. He closes with a stunning rendition of Wonderwall, joined again by heart-tugging strings, proving not only that the track is a masterpiece, but that 22 years after its release, it sounds better than ever in Gallagher’s hands.
But don’t be deceived, tonight is not part of some touring jukebox, a million miles from it. Rather than providing ‘here comes the new stuff, check your Facebook’ moments, his solo work has the entirely opposite effect. It stands up tall next to anything you’ll find on his Oasis CV. It’s fresh. It’s relevant. It makes the musical landscape he’s shook up like a snow globe look positively mediocre.
Some might say Noel was the ‘brains behind the band’ but (whilst I admire and respect his big brother and dream of a reunion) tonight we witnessed its heart and soul pay the Midlands an unforgettable visit.
Liam performs at the Manchester Arena (Saturday 16th December) and Lancashire County Cricket Club (Saturday 18th August 2018). Visit http://liamgallagher.com/tour for details.