‘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.
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.