Liam Gallagher at Reading Festival 2021: he’s in brash, brother-baiting rockstar mode

August 29: the frontman puts on a fitting end to a biblical weekend, deriding Noel as "the little fella" and enjoying the fruits of his enormous comeback

A couple of weeks ago, Liam Gallagher treated pandemic-battling NHS heroes to a free ‘thank you’ show at London’s O2 Arena – and it was just what the doctor ordered. With a combination of Oasis classics and compelling cuts from his two solo records, he helped to usher in this tentative period of recovery; it was a distinctly post-lockdown show that offered a sense of release from the turmoil we’ve all endured.

There’s a similar – though somewhat less wholesome – vibe tonight, as Liam enters the main stage blowing kisses to the audience. Helicopter visuals swoop across the giant video screens either side of him before he tears into ‘Morning Glory’ and a punter near NME sets off an orange flare, a signal that we’re here to party like it’s 1995. Liam, with his feathered barnet and orange shades, can only oblige, steamrollering through ‘Supersonic’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, the lesser-played ‘Fade Away’, ‘Roll With It’ and ‘Live Forever’, that last track dedicated to late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

“It’s good to get out the house, innit?” the frontman opines a few songs in. “Don’t matter how big your house is. Mine’s massive and it’s still shit innit?” Liam was in a sentimental mood at the O2 show, which was all about the NHS, but tonight he’s in brash, brother-baiting rockstar mode. “The little fella’s still sulking somewhere,” he says of Noel, with whom his feud continues. “But the tunes are still fucking cool, and they’ve gotta be done… So I need your help in the choruses.”

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Actually, he gets plenty of assistance from his slick female backing singers; with Bonehead on guitar, this is the most polished his solo outfit has ever sounded. Still, the audience are on hand to belt out ‘Stand By Me’, which he dedicates to Bonehead, whom he reveals hated the song during Oasis’ lifetime but has now come round to it – “about 20 fucking years too late”. Like ‘Fade Away’, it’s a tune that was a little unloved in its own era; a casualty of the sheer enormity of the band’s back catalogue. Not that this is a nostalgia-fest, though: debut solo single ‘Wall of Glass’ – with its lyric about “designer vaccinations”, no less – goes off like the old favourites.

Credit: Emma Viola Lilja

As much as anything, this Reading & Leeds headline slot is testament to the staggering success of the comeback bid Liam Gallagher launched in 2017. Such an achievement would have been unthinkable in his post-Beady Eye doldrums just a few years ago. Inadvertently, then, this really was a gig all about bouncing back from a shit time; a fitting finale to a biblical weekend.

Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021

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