Manchester's prodigal son proved he was as good at slaying festivals as devising puns
Although he wasn’t headlining, the cloakroom-averse homecoming hero’s presence was felt throughout the weekend, whether it was from Manchester collective Levelz (essentially the grime Happy Mondays) covering ‘Wonderwall’ the day before, or de facto bill-topper Skepta beginning his set singing ‘Live Forever’ a cappella. That’s even before you count the spontaneous Oasis sing-a-longs that erupt throughout the day by teens ready to tick seeing him off their bucket (hat) list.
“There are spontaneous Oasis sing-a-longs erupting throughout the day as teens prepare to tick him off their bucket (hat) list”
With a justified self-belief that comparatively makes Kanye resemble a wilting wallflower, he revels in an image as the last of the pantheon of rock idols. Striding on to his traditional walk-on music of ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’, he introduces a shudderingly powerful ‘Rock N Roll Star’ by noting: “Not many of them left.” “Let the mind games begin!” he commands, before unleashing ‘Morning Glory’, after which he presumably references Parklife – sorry, Parkalife’s impressively grime-heavy line-up by asking: “Anyone seen any bands around?”
But rather than feel like a heritage act, tracks from last year’s ‘As You Were’ effortlessly update his legacy. The fact that it outsold the combined sales of the rest of the Top Ten albums in the chart the week of its release – coupled with the writer’s remit of “Big tunes” – means there’s no longueurs. Fans in RKID T-shirts vault onto each others’ shoulders during the glam country stomp of ‘Greedy Soul’ and the gospel-tinged ‘Wall Of Glass’. Tambourines in the crowd are shook to the unifying ‘Bold’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’. Augmented by trumpets and a section brassier than his neck, ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘You Better Run’ see him basking in lairy love.
Naturally, it’s the ironclad Oasis anthems that incite the most bedlam. ““Alright do we have any Manchester City fans on the field of play?”, he asks (famously he supports the team) to a panto mixture of cheers and boos, before launching into ‘Some Might Say’, his siren snarl undiminished. As ever, he has the up-for-it look of a man practically daring someone to spill his pint. “What have you got to say?” he singles out an audience member, shaking his maracas with intent. “You there with the Eddie the Eagle nose!”, then hurtles into an incendiary ‘Slide Away’. Bonehead joins him onstage to add extra heft to ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, and the sublime swagger of ‘Supersonic’ elicits so much dancing, he observes: “It’s like a bar mitzvah innit?”
“Short of someone giving him a Noel-shaped piñata – the city’s prodigal son couldn’t be happier”
He poignantly dedicates an acoustic ‘Live Forever’ to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack last year – the aftermath of which saw Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ adopted as a uniting symbol of resilience in the face of an atrocity intent on division. “Obviously I’ve done a lot of talking over the years and a lot of drinking and a lot of singing and all that so if I can’t get the girly notes, help us,” he says, rallying the communal crowd, before quipping: “I know there’s a lot of [Manchester] United fans in. They’ve got high voices.”. Climaxing with ‘Wonderwall’, as the crowd bellow the chorus and pints spilled while mates are hugged, you sense that – short of someone giving him a Noel-shaped piñata – the city’s prodigal son couldn’t be happier.