Talking about Liam Gallagher in 2017 is more challenging than anticipated. The same histories and theories about Britpop, the battle thereof, and what it all meant have been hashed out ad infinitum. By now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Blur won said battle, Oasis won the war, and neither escaped the debacle with half as much dignity and grace and self-effacing humor as Pulp.
But despite Oasis’ melodramatic breakup in 2009, the band – along with both Gallagher brothers – continue to loom large. And although both Liam and Noel have embarked on solo endeavors, they can’t top the products of their former partnership: “Live Forever,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” are cemented in the sonic cultural fabric; “Wonderwall” has reached the uniquely postmodern achievement of becoming a meme rivaled only by Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”
Going it alone, the brother’s solo careers reflect as much. Noel is usually a good sport about it, trotting out the occasional Oasis cut during his High Flying Birds sets. Liam has had less time to dredge up the past absent of his sibling. His first solo project, Beady Eye, was a short-lived, unremarkable Oasis copycat band that fizzled with a whimper (read: a single tweet on Liam’s account thanking fans for their support).
Liam Gallagher, billed as is, took far longer to come to fruition. Less than two years ago, he was adamantly against the idea, tweeting “Solo career are you fucking tripping dickhead im not a cunt LG X.” (If it’s not already clear, he’s an essential follow, and not just for each time he refers to his brother as a “potato” or some variation thereof.)
Just over a year later, he announced his first solo album, As You Were. It dropped in October, and he tried it out on American soil for the first time ever at The Warfield. The scene inside was predictable enough: older, mostly male, reasonably packed, and feverishly British. As in, it was nearly impossible to turn a full circle without encountering a Fred Perry polo or an English accent.
Gallagher sauntered out to Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco,” jacket zipped to his chin and trademark half-moon tambourine in hand. The walk-on song and the tacky banner reading “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” draped over the synthesizer prompted at least a few eye rolls – seriously dude, pick any other song – but Gallagher has never traded in class and finesse. If anything, Gallagher believes in rock for rock’s sake; art and style never having been major concerns.
He played like it, too. Monday night was a master class in giving the people what they want – a.k.a. the hits. He fired off “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory” first, gesturing at his sound engineer and stopping mid-lyric throughout to fix whatever he felt was off.
Gallagher hits his stride somewhere inside the steady stomp of “Bold,” the most memorable non-Oasis song of the night. “For What It’s Worth” followed, prompting everyone over the age of 30 to sway and relive their teenage years, most likely possibly the song’s acoustic-ish melancholia sounds like a lost (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? B-side.
Gallagher didn’t dwell long on As You Were. Instead, he brought up a mini super-fan from the audience to introduce “Some Might Say.” (The little boy could hardly reach the microphone and it was as adorable as you can imagine. Gallagher gave him his tambourine to keep and switched to maracas.) “Be Here Now,” a decent song on Oasis’ overwrought 1997 album of the same name, provided the big finish to the regular set.
The crowd refused to relent, resuming the LI-AM, LI-AM cheers they started prior to the set. Gallagher returned, fired off “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” then polled the crowd over whether they wanted to hear “Wonderwall” or “Live Forever.” It was “Live Forever” by a landslide. Grown men on all sides closed the night clutching each other and spilling their $9 beers on each other while singing along.
As palatable as the As You Were cuts are, Gallagher knows he has reached a particular status as a nostalgia act. That he’s chosen to embrace it and design set lists around it is a wise call: The former ’90s kids get what they came for and absorb the As You Were songs better with the knowledge that another Oasis cut is on the way. As You Were might not live forever, but the songs the Gallaghers created together possess an undeniable longevity. Good on Liam for recognizing as much.