Liam Gallagher rolls out all the hits… and the Oasis singer has lost none of that raspy swagger: ADRIAN THRILLS reviews Knebworth 22
Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22 (Warner)
Verdict: Power and Panache
Any lingering hopes that Oasis might belatedly join this summer’s Britpop reunion party were dashed last week when Noel Gallagher disparagingly referred to his brother and former bandmate Liam not as the group’s singer but its ‘tambourine player’.
Looks like Blur and Pulp, who have just staged triumphant comebacks, have the Britpop arena to themselves for now.
That hasn’t stopped the bickering Gallaghers from getting their own affairs in order, though. Noel, Oasis’s main songwriter, released his fourth solo album, Council Skies, in June and is now touring.
Tambourine man: Last week Noel Gallagher disparagingly referred to his brother and former bandmate Liam Gallagher (pictured) not as the group’s singer but its ‘tambourine player’
And Liam revisits last year’s two-night stand at Knebworth Park with a new live album, out today, that bristles with visceral power and panache.
The younger Gallagher has no reservations about tapping into his old band’s legacy. The Knebworth shows saw him return to the scene of two era-defining Oasis gigs held 26 years earlier.
If Noel, who quit the band after a backstage row in Paris in 2009, has since explored more reflective styles, Liam has retained much of his old swagger – and achieved huge solo success by doing so.
Knebworth 22 doesn’t try anything fancy. ‘I’m not reinventing the wheel, just giving it a new polish,’ he said when he launched his solo career six years ago, and you could never accuse him of not giving his fans (and there were 170,000 of them here) what they want. Back in action after the pandemic, he embraces the moment.
Supported by a five-piece band and three backing vocalists, he delivers a 76-minute set that takes in tracks from his three solo LPs and Oasis numbers.
Within minutes of walking on stage, he has quoted The Beatles – reciting lines from I Am The Walrus – and replicated the Oasis wall of sound on high-intensity versions of Hello and Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. It’s 30 years since Oasis were discovered by record label boss Alan McGee, but Liam’s voice has lost none of its raspy punch.
Surprisingly, the best of his solo songs don’t pale in comparison with the classics. Wall Of Glass, his debut solo single, shows the wisdom of employing experienced co-writers such as Andrew Wyatt and Greg Kurstin.
More Power, a soul-baring ballad from last year’s C’mon You Know, is beautifully sung with the help of a gospel choir. It’s not wall-to-wall hits, either. An obscure Oasis song, Roll It Over, gets a rare airing, as does 1994 album track Slide Away (dedicated to Liam’s fiancée Debbie Gwyther).
But the album ends with the ritual beery singalongs to Supersonic, Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova, the latter with Stone Roses guitarist John Squire playing the solo originally performed by Paul Weller.
Not too bad for a tambourine player.
Public Image LTD: End Of World (PiL Official)
Verdict: Lydon buries his punk past
As the sneering frontman of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – was the figurehead of the UK’s late 1970s punk movement. But he was never that comfortable with such a one-dimensional caricature, and he has used Public Image Ltd, the band he launched after leaving the Pistols in 1978, to show a more resourceful side.
He’s at his versatile best again on End Of World, PiL’s first LP since 2015 and a pandemic-disrupted set of songs five years in the making. The album’s genre-hopping – it moves between Nordic rock, glam, indie-funk and jazz – could easily feel haphazard, but Lydon is one of rock’s most impressively theatrical voices, while guitarist Lu Edmonds, drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth, provide an inventive backdrop.
Punk: As the sneering frontman of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon (second to right) — aka Johnny Rotten — was the figurehead of the UK’s late 1970s punk movement
The album is dedicated to the memory of John’s wife of 44 years, Nora Forster, who died in April after living with Alzheimer’s for five years. Lydon, 67, had been her full-time carer, and it’s tempting to see some of these songs as a reflection of his devotion. PiL’s spring single Hawaii is a potent example. A tenderly-sung ballad, it looks back on a married life lived to the full: ‘Don’t fly too soon, no need to cry in pain, you are loved,’ he sings.
He digs deep again on North West Passage. With former Damned guitarist Edmonds delivering a see-saw riff, and Firth supplying virtuoso bass, he draws a parallel between mortality and the icy sea lane that links the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans: ‘Through the North West into the night / Could it be the end of my life?’
Some of the old venom remains. Opening track Penge is a heavy rock number that imagines a Viking invasion of a gentrified London suburb.
Looking back at punk isn’t on the agenda here, though. Lydon says his late wife loved this record and wouldn’t have wanted today’s release to be postponed.
And, with a European tour starting next month, it’s a potent, and welcome, return.
n Liam Gallagher plays Boardmasters Festival, Cornwall, tomorrow (boardmasters.com). PiL start a tour on September 8 at the Leadmill, Sheffield (ticketmaster.co.uk).
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway: City Of Gold (Nonesuch)
Verdict: Virtuoso guitarist strikes precious metal
Singer and guitarist Molly Tuttle is difficult to pigeonhole. Raised in San Francisco, she has tapped into California’s acoustic songwriting tradition. She’s also an accomplished interpretive vocalist, having cut one LP on which she covers The Rolling Stones, FKA Twigs, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Harry Styles (she sings a mean Sunflower, Vol. 6).
But it’s as a virtuoso bluegrass musician and bandleader that she excels on new album City Of Gold. Tuttle, now based in Nashville, won a Grammy in February for her flat-picking guitar prowess, and further accolades are surely in the offing. Backed by fiddle, banjo and mandolin, she’s bewilderingly speedy, but never flashy just for the sake of it.
Star: Molly Tuttle (centre), now based in Nashville, won a Grammy in February for her flat-picking guitar prowess
Her storytelling skills are also to the fore. She adopts the persona of Gold Rush Kate on El Dorado, lampooning the hungry hopefuls who rushed to the site of California’s first gold strike, while Where Did All The Wild Things Go? laments the tourist-led gentrification of Nashville. ‘Now the street is full of suits with 100-dollar haircuts,’ she sings.
But City Of Gold is still an upbeat ride. On San Joaquin, she plays a railroad queen with ‘a few more hearts to break ’til I reach the end of the road’, while Yosemite, sung with roots-rocker Dave Matthews, finds her taking a road trip to revive a floundering marriage.
She remains hard to pin down, though. On first hearing, The First Time I Fell In Love feels like a standard country ballad steeped in nostalgia. Dig deeper, however, and it also finds her professing her lifelong love of electronic dance music.
Molly Tuttle starts a UK tour on January 10, 2024, at the Corn Exchange, Exeter (mollytuttlemusic.com).
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