Liam Gallagher/ Definitely Maybe 30th Anniversary review – 90s anthems still shake without their maker

Estimated read time 5 min read

As a defining image, it’s an unexpected choice: a sizeable portrait of Burt Bacharach sits in front of the drum riser, drawing the eye as a giant digital clock counts back the years to 1994. A songwriter of classic pop who died last year at age 94, the US artist seems an unlikely totem for a band – Oasis – whose general disdain for America, and surly investment in rock’n’roll, were core beliefs.

But Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher brought a Bacharach album to the photo shoot for the cover of the band’s debut album, Definitely Maybe (1994) – a photograph fondly recreated in spirit onstage tonight in an attempt to perk up this bland arena space. Flamingos, fake palm trees and a globe dot the decor, harking back to props from the shot taken in Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs’ front room. Later, animated packets of Benson & Hedges fly around the backdrop during a merry rendition of LP curio Digsy’s Dinner, along with cartoon goblets of red wine (Ribena in the photo shoot). Alongside the cigarettes and alcohol? Strobing pop art lasagne, as featured in the song’s lyrics.

Noel Gallagher is notably absent from these 30th anniversary celebrations – a kind of black hole around which everything carries on orbiting nonetheless. Oasis’s songs are like perpetual motion machines, adopted by generation after generation as anthems of choice; they do not require their maker to shake them. They just need their singer, Liam Gallagher, to sneer them with conviction.

Noel’s lyrics famously vacillate between certainty – “I’m free to say whatever” – and indecision – “maybe I just don’t believe” – on Definitely Maybe. But Liam, clad in Adidas, delivers all of them with screwfaced commitment, singing upwards into a microphone perennially positioned to keep his physiotherapist in work. Bald men hug, pints fly, the stalls exchange paper-cup fire with the circle.

The two legendarily volatile Gallaghers remain at loggerheads since their split in 2009, with Noel refusing to participate in this retro lap of honour, despite the money on the table. Not only that: appetite for the 90s remains at fever pitch as music, fashion – and hopefully, soon, politics – look back at the decade many gen Z-ers and millennials identify as the last time there was any under-recorded, non-socially-mediated fun, or much hope for the future.

Discussing the anniversary tour with Mojo magazine earlier this year, Liam was quite happy to shoulder the burden of looking back. “Me, I love nostalgia,” he said. “People say it’s the comfort zone – I want to be in the comfort zone! Bring me my slippers and my little blankie and put me in the comfort zone, please. Life’s stressful enough.”

This tour is, arguably, no great conceptual stretch for him. A fair few Oasis songs litter Liam’s outings of his very successful post-Beady Eye solo material. So when the night’s revelries begin with Rock’n’Roll Star, there is a certain air of business as usual – the track habitually kicks off Liam’s solo sets.

Oasis rhythm guitarist Bonehead also tours with Liam; he’s here tonight, looking professorial in wire specs. It makes sense: Bonehead’s band, the Rain – featuring Liam Gallagher on vocals – morphed into Oasis when Liam persuaded his elder brother to come along and jam.

Rock‘n’roll was, of course, always key to Oasis’s USP. Their manager, Marcus Russell, initially baulked at the band being lumped in with Britpop, pulling the band’s product from record shop promotions that included fey southerners Blur and Suede.

In addition to Liam, the loud electric guitars are the night’s star turn. There are three: Bonehead’s, Mike Moore’s and Jay Mehler’s, creating resonant, pile-driving approximations of Indian ragas layered over with tunes that milk-deliverers could whistle, and still do. The less familiar songs – like Cloudburst, or I Will Believe – are instantly located in time and space thanks to the mantric glam drones at their hearts.

Deep cuts aside, there are few real surprises tonight. Liam Gallagher’s is a well-oiled, professionally run operation, with none of the band’s 1994 chaos about it. Backing vocalists and string sections rotate on the rear podium.

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The lack of eventfulness makes you appreciate the detail more. Rather than erasing his brother, Soviet-style, or hurling invective at him (“sad little dwarf” and “angry squirt” were two standouts from 2022), Liam is in conciliatory mood.

Snapshots of the pair in their pomp litter the visuals. Liam pulls an ancient Oasis obscurity from the vault: Lock All the Doors, an Oasis demo, never released, but later recorded by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The prominence of the image of Bacharach feels like another gesture towards the absent Gallagher.

Oasis ultras may demur, but the most emotive few minutes of the set come early. Liam dedicates a track to his “little brother” who’s “playing hard to get”. Yes, hits like Cigarettes and Alcohol, Supersonic and Live Forever are all defiantly on point, railing against the pointlessness of unrewarding work and the nihilism of grunge, and celebrating the consolation found in altered states. But Liam’s rendition of Half the World Away – traditionally sung by Noel, and sweetened by violins – comes over like a thoughtful ode to the distance between them.


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