“You’s the fucking bollocks!” Liam Gallagher tells the audience at one point on his new ‘MTV Unplugged’ live album, swiftly dispelling the notion that he’ll be kicking back in a moth-balled green cardie and sifting through some obscure grunge ballads.
Nirvana might have made history in New York with their classic 1994 instalment of the famous stripped-back gig series, but our kid’s opted for somewhere closer to home: the 1200-capacity Hull City Hall. It’s a respectful nod to an unfairly maligned part of the country, and perhaps a sly dig at his estranged brother Noel, who dubbed the city “a fucking shithole” in 2018.
The Gallaghers have always had a way with a stinging putdown, but we could all do with an absence of cynicism – and the presence of some comfort, hope and optimism – right now, and this 10-song collection certainly delivers on that front. Recorded last August, the modest and warm performance sees Liam let down his trademark bravado, laying bare the bruised sincerity at the core of his unifying back-catalogue.
And about time too – Noel and co. recorded their own ‘MTV Unplugged’ at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1996, but Liam was absent due to a ‘sore throat’. Here, he rights that historical wrong.
Oasis classics ‘Some Might Say’, ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘Cast No Shadow’ sit snugly alongside the frontman’s more recent solo songs ‘Once’ and ‘Wall of Glass’, with the new arrangements – acoustic guitar, gospel backing vocals and the 24-piece Urban Soul Orchestra – softening the distinction between the two. A lovely little piano refrain rolls through ‘Some Might Say’ (now with added boogie-woogie) and reappears on ‘Now That I’ve Found You’, an unabashed ode to Liam’s daughter Molly, which appeared on last year’s Gold-selling second solo album ‘Why Me? Why Not.’
The sense of familiarity is palpable, from the way Liam introduces that aforementioned tune – “it’s about the lovely Molly” – to the rapturous applause that original Oasis guitarist Bonehead receives when he sidles onstage for the melancholic ‘Sad Song’, a lesser-played ditty from the band’s early ‘90s heyday. The tender ‘Cast No Shadow’ was readymade for this scenario, though album highlight ‘Stand By Me’ provides the show’s emotional centrepiece; from the way the audience sings along with his wounded dispatch, you sense Liam Gallagher’s not the only person in the room nursing a few regrets.
“It’s lovely to be in Hull,” he announces elsewhere on this intimate record, a statement imbued with the bittersweet message that he and Oasis first broached more than 25 years ago: you’re here, I’m here, and we’re all gonna be OK together.
Release date: June 12
Record label: Warner Records