Liam Gallagher: Down By the River Thames review – barging through his back catalogue

Aside from abuse hurled at the London Eye, this livestreamed boat gig is a sedate pootle through his solo work and the heavier end of Oasis

Other livestreams have sold themselves on everything from dazzling displays of the latest technology or promises they could somehow recreate the atmosphere of a club, but – not entirely unpredictably – Liam Gallagher’s offers up allusions to rock history. It comes advertised with Jamie Reid ransom-note graphics and a cartoon that apes the poster displayed outside cinemas when The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle was showing: the obvious inference is that it’s an event spiritually akin to the Sex Pistols’ infamously chaotic July 1977 performance on a River Thames pleasure cruiser, which ended prematurely with police boarding the boat, scuffles and multiple arrests.

Of course, the reality of Down by the River Thames is absolutely nothing like that. Filmed a month ago, its footage of passing landmarks and the London skyline illuminated at dusk is so beautifully shot and edited, it could be an advert for Visit Britain. The closest it comes to authority-baiting insurrectionary fervour is when Our Kid unaccountably takes against the sight of the London Eye between songs. “Arsed about you, big wheel,” he bellows, curiously. “Big round daft thing sitting there all lit up. I couldn’t give less of a fuck about you.” On another occasion, he’s momentarily distracted by another denizen of the river. “This one’s for all the beautiful people on Earth,” he begins, before something catches his eye: “CANOE!”

It takes a moment to realise that the grey-bearded, bespectacled figure stage left is former Oasis guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs: never the greatest exemplar of rock star glamour even at Britpop’s height, he’s clad in a waterproof bucket hat and jacket that gives him the air of a man who’s about to set up a camping chair, get out some sandwiches, order the boat to stop and cast off over the side. He joins the band for As You Were’s Once – a song that wistfully stares out of the car window on the school run and reflects on 90s hedonism – and an intriguing selection of Oasis tracks.

Always the most bullish defender of Oasis’ discography from Be Here Now onwards, tonight Gallagher sticks fast to their mid-90s oeuvre, largely avoiding the most obvious songs – no Wonderwall or Live Forever, Champagne Supernova delivered in a truncated piano-and-vocals version – in favour of a trawl through their heavier, punkier moments: Hello (its interpolation from Gary Glitter’s similarly titled 1973 hit unexpectedly intact), Morning Glory, Columbia, Headshrinker, Fade Away. The latter is a highlight, the snarling, get-me-out-of-Burnage-I’m-going-to-be-a-somebody lyrics acquiring an oddly melancholy quality in middle age: “We only get what we settle for … dream it while you can”.

If they’re not as good as that, the songs from Gallagher’s solo albums sound fine – there’s certainly less of a noticeable drop-off in quality than there would be if he’d played stuff off Oasis’s later albums – as does his voice: the horrible strained whine he inexplicably took to singing in during his former band’s final years is a distant memory. He pretends to play a recorder during Halo, then spits it out, but that’s as far as surprises go, the aforementioned London Eye/canoe incidents notwithstanding. But in fairness, a certain predictability is Gallagher Jr’s brand these days.

In an uncertain world, his devotees can temporarily rest easy, knowing exactly what you’re going to get from him: a Never Mind the Bollocks-derived wall of distorted guitars, drums that occasionally tend to glam stomp, the odd yearning ballad tacked on to the end of the performance – Christmas single All You’re Dreaming Of is a sweet example – and some swearing.

He delivers on all counts. Sitting at home, Clarks-shod feet up, feather-cuts illuminated by their Christmas tree lights, his fanbase are doubtless thoroughly enjoying it. For anyone else, the novelty of watching a band playing on a barge does wear off some time before the livestream ends, Gallagher shouting at inanimate objects or not.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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