19 June 2013
There he stands onstage – stock still, hands in pockets, chin jutting out – the king of stillism. That familiar and iconic shape in the dazzling stage lights defying stuff like sweat in a boiling hot venue in the still night air of a unusually hot British late spring evening.
Liam Gallagher is back in town, in the old stomping ground and the intervening decades have seen so much change for him and the surrounding city that it’s almost impossible to imagine what it was like now back in the early nineties when the very young junior Gallagher checked out the then rising local band World of Twist at the same venue.
It was a gig that had a profound effect on him and he was blown away by their genius, psych tinged, northern soul stomping freak pop – so blown away that he nearly took one of their songs titles, Sons Of The Stage, for the name of his band that he was soon to form and it was a song that he later covered in Beady Eye.
I was at this wonderful old Manchester venue that night, World Of Twist were at their peak with that wacky stage show and the late and great charismatic lead singer Tony Ogden was covered in silver tin foil at the beginning of the gig and getting unwrapped gradually as he began the set.
There is none of that kind of madness with Liam – he likes his theatricals straight down the line and very minimal but there is much more strangeness and, er, twist, to his music than he is ever given credit for and there are moments tonight when the whole thing takes off with a psychedelic swirl – especially on the outros of some of the songs when Andy Bell and Gem Archer’s guitars intertwine in tripped out magic.
The band take the stage with a four piece brass section which adds an effective blanket of sound for the first song Flick Of The Finger and blast through a set mainly put together from the new album, BE, which has just entered the charts at number 2 having been beaten by Black Sabbath’s 13, to the number one spot. The number 2 slot is a moment of triumph for Liam but he doesn’t seem in a celebratory mood as he prowls the stage with a typically sullen demeanour and minimal stage patter apart from dedicating two of the Oasis songs in the set, ‘Rock N Roll Star’ and ‘(What’s The Story?) Morning Glory’, to Oasis’ former guitarist Bonehead.
Flick Of The Finger is anthemic and rasping and sounds oddly like the long lost great seventies Australian punk band The Saints when they added the brass to tracks like Know Your Product (that would be a genius song for Liam to cove r- check it out on Spotify now). The song is more proof that the band are not short of songs and its brooding power is a pointer to the new Beady Eye on the second album.
It’s fair to say that Liam gets a bad press. His cardboard cut-out tabloid image goes in front of him wherever he goes and he is apt to play up to it but behind the facade there is sensitive and smart soul whose insecurities play out brilliantly in the songs that combine with his psychodrama to create something far more interesting than the 2D version we are lumbered with in the press. I guess that is the price of fame and it’s sometimes hard to remember that, along with brother Noel, Liam was one of the most famous faces in the UK in the nineties.
He has lost none of the swagger and the band are shit tight – drummer Chris Sharrock is fucking great and does that Keith Moon meets Ringo thing perfectly, combining two of the best drummers in the sixties into his own personal take on the drum heroes from the dawn of this very British take on rock n roll.
Tonight has lots of the new album, stand out cuts like Second Bite Of The Apple show the bands keenness to move on from the straightjacket of the Oasis behemoth as the song skips in on a loping, echoing drum pattern that is closer to Nick Cave than lad rock. There is the brooding psychedelia of Soul Love which is beautifully judged. Working with TV on The Radio on the new album was an inspired move and has injected the band with a sense of space. The fab Second Bite Of The Apple swings and grooves and builds to its horn driven climax and has the Ritz bouncing. Gem Archer rattles the shaker adding to the groove, now a king of the shakers – the shaker maker.
The first album is still referenced with a brisk Millionaire and the dark brass driven Four Letter Word but the best reaction is, of course, for the Oasis songs which nearly bring the house down. It feels like an earthquake as the floor bounces from one end of the room to the other, I’ve never felt it like that in the Ritz before as the songs crank up the Richter scale and cause a mass sing-a-long for the wall of sound anthems that were special moments for men of certain age in the dancehall tonight.
Rock n Roll Star is one of those great rock n roll songs and sound oddly timeless – it’s call to dare to dream strikes a chord with everyone in the room and still packs that swagger and takes me back to the time when they recorded it in Wales. I was the first person to hear it when Liam invited us up the studio to hear the new stuff after we met him in a taxi on the way back from Rockfield village. The band I was with that night were called Cable and I was producing their album in the next door studio – they ended up having a fight with Liam and I had to drag them home but the song stuck in my head.
The newly confident Beady Eye have the nerve to drop it down like on Don’t Brother Me which is an introverted, seven minute acoustic piece with a brilliant tripped out outro that makes you wonder if Liam has been taking acid. Soon Come Tomorrow is a stripped down blues with another oddly Nick Cave style blues lick guitar stalking the outro.
For the encore Liam introduces Bring The Light to all the punks in the house and the stomping Jerry Lee piano rock n roll of Bring The Light sounds like a monster- proper rock roll and the band end with a climactic Wigwam – one of the great Shall la la songs like the Stones when they went all trippy on the underrated Satanic majesties.
It’s funny watching Liam now – he’s actually a rock n roll veteran, he’s been through the culture wars and come out of the other side. The end of Oasis was sudden but maybe timely – maybe there was nowhere else for them to go at the time and their instincts fired up one last bust up. Will they return? It can’t be ruled out but for the time being the two solo careers continue as both brothers deal with the huge legacy of the band in their own ways whilst the Stone Roses occupy the main stage.
Where the first and still great sounding Beady Eye album seemed to be an attempt to compete with brother noel and get the first salvo in they have now relaxed into their own stride and are emerging as a band in their own right.
1. Flick of the Finger
2. Face the Crowd
4. Four Letter Word
5. Soul Love
6. Second Bite of the Apple
7. Iz Rite
8. Shine a Light
9. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (Oasis cover)
10. Don’t Brother Me
11. I’m Just Saying
12. Morning Glory (Oasis cover)
13. Soon Come Tomorrow
14. The Roller
15. Start Anew
17. Bring the Light
All words by John Robb.
All images by Hayley Taylor.