Liam Gallagher review – Knebworth return shows Britpop isn’t timeless

Knebworth House, Hertfordshire
Back at the stately home where Oasis basked in glory in 1996, Liam’s solid solo material can’t quite conjure the same magic

‘It’s good to be back,” Liam Gallagher snarls, waggling his tambourine at the massed hordes of Knebworth for the first time in 26 years, and you can well believe it. Five years ago Liam was begging his estranged brother Noel on Twitter to reform the Manchester rock titans as if the bailiffs were coming through the windows. Today he has his fourth No 1 solo album with C’mon You Know and is undoubtedly the bigger name. There was only one place to celebrate: the old Oasis glory grounds of 1996.

In a near identical white outfit to the one he wore last time, piling into an opening run of Hello, Rock’n’Roll Star and Morning Glory pumped with intense determination, Gallagher sells his Knebworth comeback as a recreation of Oasis’s legendary weekend here – the pinnacle of Britpop – and a mark of his solo career as an equivalent cultural phenomenon. But the numbers hardly match up. Too big for anywhere else, Oasis received enough ticket requests to play 16 nights here in 1996, whereas Liam could have comfortably fit tonight’s 80,000 fans into numerous stadia where a mild breeze doesn’t make Some Might Say feel like Ménière’s disease. You could argue we’re foot-fodder in the world’s biggest ever sibling point-scoring exercise.

The day’s bill plays out much like Liam’s set. Australian punks Amyl and the Sniffers provide an adrenal rush of early-doors excitement. Kasabian deliver the reliable (electro-glam) ladrock big hitters. In between, Paolo Nutini covers Half the World Away.

Rock’n’roll star … Liam Gallagher.
Rock’n’roll star … Liam Gallagher. Photograph: Harry Herd/Redferns

Much of Liam’s solo material has the uncanny feel of a pro writer’s Radio X-optimised crack at an Oasis song. Wall of Glass, for instance, is Oasis via ELO – no bad thing. Shockwave and C’Mon You Know could have been produced by a Noel Gallagher AI on “glam stomp” setting. Diamond in the Dark is someone’s idea of Oasis doing something from Arctic Monkeys’ AM, complete with faux Noel nonsense lyrics: “I’m floating like a lion in the ark, I’m walking round in circles through the park”. Sgt Pepper rocker Why Me? Why Not even segues neatly, tonight, into the Beatles’ Come Together.

Between brief bursts of 90s singalongs, including the resurrection of bombastic 2000 rarity Roll It Over, Liam lumps these own-brand-Oasis tracks into wearying chunks. C’mon You Know, his most convincing album yet, provides welcome additions – Dave Grohl co-write Everything’s Electric, the pop Tomorrow Never Knows of Better Days and the genuinely great gospel rocker More Power, which could have been chipped off Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Of the solo tunes, though, only the stirring Once is welcomed anywhere near as rapturously as the closing cascade of Oasis classics, where Supersonic, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Live Forever and a majestic Champagne Supernova – with the Stone Roses’ John Squire adding liquid licks, just as he did in 1996 – give Knebworth ’22 a real taste of those Britpop glory days; even though, unless you’re downwind, it all sounds like a man with a momentous canon in a world of soup. Some history, it turns out, is unrepeatable.

Contributor

Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Liam Gallagher review – the last great rock'n'roll star
Raw power and energy radiate from the former Oasis frontman as he draws on songs from his solo debut and era-defining classics in a dynamo performance

Dave Simpson

04, Dec, 2017 @12:50 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher review – haunted by his brother's ghost
His band are well-drilled and Liam’s sneering vocals are on point, but there is a gulf between his solid solo songs and the era-defining work of Oasis

Huw Baines

12, Nov, 2019 @1:37 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher announces solo album
The former Oasis frontman has signed to Warner Brothers to release a record due in 2017 … just don’t call it a solo career

Guardian music

25, Aug, 2016 @11:39 AM

Article image
Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury 2019 review – rehashed former glories
The younger Gallagher brother continued his Glasto residency with a set of transcendent Oasis classics – and the occasional unasked for solo song

Laura Snapes

29, Jun, 2019 @9:15 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher: As You Were review – motormouth meets the Beatles, again
The younger Gallagher now has better ballads than Noel – but his lyrics will have you beating your head against a table

Alexis Petridis

05, Oct, 2017 @1:00 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher: Why Me? Why Not review | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
Gallagher provides more crowd-pleasers for his sizable audience of 90s guitar-rock nostalgists – and with greater confidence

Alexis Petridis

19, Sep, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
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

Alexis Petridis

06, Dec, 2020 @2:26 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher accuses Noel of legal threat over documentary
Liam has said his brother will sue if he uses any footage of himself singing Oasis songs in the forthcoming film As It Was

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

18, Feb, 2019 @12:53 PM

Article image
Liam and Noel Gallagher set up film production company
No plans revealed for Kosmic Kyte, formed after years of fractious comments between Oasis’s rock star brothers

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

17, Mar, 2021 @1:04 PM

Article image
Liam Gallagher leads wave of free concerts for NHS staff
The Script, Rick Astley and others also announce benefit shows to thank workers fighting coronavirus

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

10, Apr, 2020 @4:22 PM