“Very sophisticated crowd we’ve got here tonight,” Liam Gallagher purrs to an arena full of NHS workers, for whom he’s playing this celebratory gig free of charge as a thank you for 18 months of vital work throughout the pandemic. “Doctors, nurses, drug dealers. My kind of people!”
Lockdown appears to have been restorative for Gallagher M.D., who’s sporting the kind of feather cut he rocked in Oasis’ early ‘00s ‘Heathen Chemistry’ days, when they’d operate on stages like this without breaking a sweat. He sounds the best he has in years, too, whether he’s roaring through his and Noel’s ‘90s classics ‘Columbia’ and ‘Morning Glory’ or vocally exposed on the sparse and tender solo cut ‘Paper Crown’. Even with Bonehead on guitar and Liam on top form, there’s no mistaking who the real stars of this show are. “I wanna thank you lot for doing what you do,” the frontman drawls at one point, before alluding to nurses’ battle for a 15 per cent pay rise. “Fucking rockstars. I hope you get your wonga!”
It’s a sentiment that Bobby Gillespie expresses during Primal Scream’s trippy earlier set, following Brighton indie rockers Black Honey, who opened the night: “God bless the NHS. We must fight those who want to end it.” Cue a prowl through the anti-capitalist rant ‘Kill All Hippies’ and its seethed refrain “You got the money, I got the soul.” The sense of unity is underlined when Gillespie dedicates blissed-out ‘Screamadelica’ track ‘Higher Than The Sun’ to “Liam and Bonehead” and later shouts out “the people who make it possible”, before leading a chant of “NHS! NHS! NHS!”
Liam’s set similarly swings between all-out triumphalism – the kind you’d expect from a pandemic-delayed show designed to honour the best the country has to offer – and moments of introspection, as when he’s framed onscreen in moody black-and-white during the bruised solo ballad ‘Once’. The two modes collide when the camera zooms in on the NHS logo adorning his band’s drumkit for the opening cymbal crash of ‘Supersonic’, drawing another massive roar of appreciation from the crowd. Colossal, gospel singer-backed 2017 solo single ‘Wall of Glass’ crashes in like an old favourite, while Oasis classic ‘Stand By Me’ offers the emotional high-point of a night that’s all about standing together.
He has always been the kind of performer to give a crowd exactly what they want, and tonight Liam graciously sandwiches the solo stuff in between the enormous, era-defining tunes that would unite an arena at the best of times. There is only one other person on the planet who could give you an encore that opens with ‘Supersonic’ and closes with ‘Live Forever’, via ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Go Let It Out’ (his first-ever solo performance of the song) and ‘Roll With It’. And who else would sing the praises of ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ to an arena full of appreciative healthcare workers?
And even after he’s left the stage for a second time, Dr. Gallagher has another prescription up his sleeve. The lights come up, audience members begin to mooch towards the door, and then he returns to the microphone: “We’re gonna do a new song. You’ll fucking love it. It’s ‘Wonderwall’.”
You have not seen joy until you’ve seen thousands of NHS workers leg it back across the O2 Arena, belting out the lyrics to one of the greatest anthems of all time, a song about relying on one another and literally being someone’s saviour. After all this time, Liam wasn’t wrong when he told the audience: “It’s good to see your lovely faces and hear your lovely voices.” This was a life-affirming, era-defining show.
Credit: Ben Bentley
Liam Gallagher played
‘Wall of Glass’
‘Why Me? Why Not’
‘Stand By Me’
‘Go Let It Out’
‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’
‘Roll With It’