Back then, the Manchester legends were scaling supernova heights, hogging radio airwaves, pub jukeboxes and crappy nightclub dancefloors. And those two gigs were the absolute pinnacle in the band’s career both musically and culturally – surely it would be mad for Liam Gallagher to try and repeat that right. But when you hear his heartfelt reasons for doing so, you can understand why: in his eyes, the youth of today never had their Knebworth, so why not give it to them?
Liam may have his work cut out to bring two shows to 160,000 people at the site of the biggest mega-gigs of the ’90s, but then again he does have those magnificent tunes in his locker to roll out whenever he pleases. Plus he’s still got the voice to go with it. Even though Oasis guitarist Bonehead, who, in Liam’s words, gave a “bit of bollocks” to his shows in recent years, sadly can’t be here tonight to help revive those incredible times, it’s absolutely Biblical.
Punters Benny Hawkins and Elliott Holden tell NME they certainly think this audacious undertaking was a good idea: “100 per cent. It’s not only a great achievement for him but it’s a big respect to the fans to do something like this,” says Benny. “He’s really, really pulling it off too,” adds Holden. “The amount of people that are coming, over these two days is insane. He’ll make it a proper memory for everyone.”
Credit where credit’s due: Gallagher has undoubtedly put the work in for this Platinum Jubilee double-header. Anyone who’s caught a glimpse of the recent Sky documentary 48 hours At Rockfield, where he returned to the scene of those legendary ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ recording seasons, will know that he’s been taking these two shows incredibly seriously, rehearsing Oasis classics and songs from his new album ‘C’mon You Know’ like a dogged boxer going up against Muhammad Ali.
Stepping onto the grounds of Knebworth Park today, 26 years later, does feel like a trip down memory lane, as both the young and old don ’90s England football shirts and bucket hats like a day never went by. What’s great about today, too, is that this massive field is devoid of the meat-headed, bare-chested, bottle-throwing yob mob that came to sadly dominate Oasis’ shows post Knebworth. This is a crowd that is genuinely excited to be here and ready to claim and re-claim their time.
The day begins with a clutch of support bands ready to kick off this Hertfordshire rock’n’roll party in style. Cocksure Manchester newbies Pastel, who were hand-picked by Gallagher himself, warm things up nicely with their blend of Verve-esque psych-rock. They aren’t scared to have a pop at R Kid, either, as rhythm guitarist James Yates humbly thanks LG for putting his band on the bill before taking a wry dig at his beloved Manchester City. “It’s a shame he’s dirty blue,” he cheekily goads. “Glory, glory Man United!”
Meanwhile, Melbourne punks Amyl And The Sniffers deliver a feral, scorching-hot set that sees gobby frontwoman Amy Taylor mosh and writhe around the stage while her band bulldoze through the likes of ‘Shake You’, ‘Knifey’ and ‘Security’. Paolo Nutini’s spine-tingling cover of ‘Half The World Away’ gives the crowd a taste of what’s to come while Kasabian ramp up the Knebworth party with a handful of flare fuelled bangers (‘Club Foot’, ‘LSF’ and ‘Fire’), which lights the fuse perfectly as LG’s chopper slowly descends onto the Hertfordshire park.
Before Liam does eventually swagger on stage in a white parka, the crowd are treated to a montage spliced with footage of the fomer Oasis frontman now and at Knebworth back then, adorned with befitting slogans declaring the frontman “biblical”, “iconic” and “godlike” as ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ blasts out to ecstatic cheers.
“Knebworth! I am here, you are here – we are all together,” he declares, sensibly steering well clear of Noel’s infamous “this is history” proclamation as he opts to put his own unifying stamp on proceedings with words repurposed from The Beatles‘ ‘I Am The Walrus’.
The opening salvo of ‘Hello’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’ and ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ come out of the blocks like a fistful of knock-out blows as Liam’s vocals loudly roar across the crowd over these timeless anthems. There’s a slight drop in momentum when ‘Wall Of Glass’ and ‘Shockwave’ follow – normally the Oasis tracks compliment his solo material but here the sense of occasion makes their importance more vital than ever – though things pick up pretty quickly with Dave Grohl-co-penned newbie ‘Everything’s Electric’. And then Liam whacks it back up to 11 with a stunning rendition of ‘Stand By Me’.
From here, he’s well in control, confidently slipping ‘C’mon You Know’ cuts ‘More Power’ and the album’s title track in with no sense of fear. The former in particular sounds incredible live as Liam’s soothing vocals are backed by his troupe of joyous gospel singers as he humbly cries: “Mother, mother / I’ll admit that I was angry for too long / Oh I wish I had more power / Oh yeah / How I wish I had more power.” Elsewhere, 2019 solo cut ‘Once’ sounds magnificent as Gallagher’s anthemic vocals fill the park over a strumming acoustic guitar.
Of the closing Oasis tracks, which all sound massive, ‘Supersonic’ packs the biggest punch as LG snarls into his mic over the early classic’s infectious guitar riff. And of course it wouldn’t be Knebworth if The Stone Roses‘ John Squire didn’t return for a second coming on ‘Champagne Supernova’, which he duly delivers, peppering his own swaggering guitar licks on the ‘Morning Glory’ closer. If Liam wanted to give the kids their own Knebworth here: mission accomplished.
Liam Gallagher played:
‘Wall Of Glass’
‘Why Me? Why Not’
‘Stand By Me’
‘Roll It Over’
‘C’mon You Know’
‘Diamond In The Dark’
‘Some Might Say’
‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’