Just five weeks out from two sold out shows at Knebworth and a huge homecoming gig at the Etihad Stadium, Liam Gallagher headed just up the road to Blackburn for a very special, intimate charity performance. According to staff at the 2,000-capacity King George’s Hall, the event had been in the works for three years before it was eventually announced just last week.
Tickets for the show were understandably like gold dust and fans could only get one by entering a ballot on Adidas’ Confirmed app. Lucky winners were then asked to pay a £20 donation to Blackburn-based charity Nightsafe, who provide help for homeless and vulnerably housed young people within the local area.
These days, £20 is considered inexpensive when it comes to buying any gig ticket, so paying it to the see Liam do his thing in such an intimate setting has to be considered a bargain – especially when the money is going to such a worthy cause.
As the gig crept closer, fans queued around the building, while two buskers/fans performed Oasis covers. Although after hearing them sing, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that they should have just left it to Liam.
Local four-piece The Illicits took to the stage at around 8pm and were certainly dressed the part, with jackets that LG himself would have been proud of and tunes with attitude to match. After ending with a cover of Underworld’s 1996 smash Born Slippy, frontman George Richards proclaimed: “Big up to Gary Aspden, this town’s f hero”.
For the uninitiated, Darwen native Gary Aspden invited the Adidas Spezial line of trainers and as well as raising money for charity, the gig was put on to coincide with the release of a brand new Liam Gallagher edition of the shoe – the LG2SPZL. To celebrate, Adidas and Spezial branding was all over King George’s Hall, from the streets outside to the balconies to the stage itself.
As the venue started to fill up, famous faces started to arrive, including former world boxing champion Ricky Hatton. Groups of mates bounced around arm in arm and sang along to the likes of The Jam’s Town Called Malice, before the lights went down just after 9pm and Liam’s traditional walk-out song F* In The Bushes started blaring. Confusingly, the instrumental finished and there was no sign of Stone Roses anthem I Am The Resurrection was played and it’s hard not to get chills as thousands of people sang the euphoric chorus at the top of their lungs in harmony. After the song’s incredible extended outro it was time for the second and final take – F* In The Bushes restarted but this time Liam made his triumphant entrance to the stage, swaggering over to the microphone, maracas in hand.
Donning a blue parka and a pair of white Adidas trainers, Liam launched into a trio of Oasis classics – Hello, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and Morning Glory. The triumvirate tore the roof off the stunning concert hall and set the tone for the rest of the set.
He then delved into some of his solo back catalogue, with the monster track Wall of Glass followed by second album cut Shockwave. Liam then introduced some songs from new album C’mon You Know and joked that the crowd may not be as invested.
“Feel free to scratch your chin or your head or your next door neighbour’s,” he said. “I’m not a**** you’re getting it.”
He needn’t have worried. Everything’s Electric is already a fan favourite and is sure to be a highlight of his huge shows in June.
Earlier this week, Liam’s long time friend and band mate Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs announced that he had throat cancer and in a rare touching moment, he dedicated new single Better Days to the guitarist.
One of my favourite Oasis tracks, Slide Away, followed and Liam’s vocals on it blew me away. Although he may never hit the heights of his first few years in Oasis, he is currently sounding better than he has for a long time.
Part of that may come down to significant lifestyle changes, as seen on the night by Liam swapping his bottles of beer from yesteryear with a mineral water. Stand By Me was next, before Liam apologised once again for entering the “new tune zone”.
“I’m sorry brothers and sisters but it’s got to be done,” he quipped. Album title track C’mon You Know preceded another new song called The World’s in Need – making its live debut – and second album song The River.
Before leaving stage, Liam addressed the local crowd once again: “I’d like to dedicate this one to all the Blackburn Rovers fans. This is how many times you’ve won the Premier League – f once”. Getting probably the best reaction of all his solo songs on the night, Once seemed a fitting end to the set, even though the audience knew he’d be back on for the encore in a matter of minutes.
Returning to stage with a mug, presumably containing chamomile tea or something equally soothing, Liam then somewhat ironically sang Cigarettes and Alcohol but still absolutely smashed it out of the park. His vocals on Cast No Shadow also defied time as three backing singers and the 2,000 in attendance sang Noel’s bits.
The timeless anthem Live Forever was introduced as the last song and the noise of the crowd singing it back to Liam was almost deafening. However, despite joking that “everyone’s sick of it”, Liam ended on Wonderwall for one last mass singalong.
A very special night for those with the golden ticket and a tantalising taster for this summer’s gargantuan gigs. In the words of the big man himself: “C’mon You Know.”
Images: Kenny Brown | Words by Thomas Molloy (Manchester Evening News)