Live Report: Liam Gallagher – The O2 Arena

A masterclass in reminiscence...

Liam Gallagher swaggers out to a packed O2 Arena at 9pm sharp on Friday night, entering stage right to a backdrop that reconstructs the ‘Definitely Maybe’ cover – a huge globe rotates overhead, a picture of Burt Bacharach glows from centre stage, and two pink flamingos stand to the rear left. It’s a no-frills introduction, with the band crashing into ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ as latecomers search for their seats.

The album’s opener sets the evening’s nostalgic events in motion, and the crowd is certainly up for it. “Hot in here tonight, isn’t it?” Gallagher announces after a raucous rendition of ‘Shakermaker’ has the standing section jostling and swirling below. “It was like a fridge in here last night, so I bought my scarf along just in case.” The appreciative Friday night crowd cheers in response as the band launches into a string of B-sides, with highlights including ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ and ‘Up in the Sky’. 

There are moments throughout the evening when the stadium resembles an animated football crowd. Punters across the arena raise their arms in rhythmic unison while the odd plastic pint cup containing overpriced beer is launched from the standing section towards the stage. A couple of crowd surfers are pulled over the front barrier during the livelier numbers and guided back into the audience with a firm but fair warning. Alongside Gallagher’s iconic voice, it’s an an excitable and nostalgic experience – a fitting atmosphere with a summer of international football just a week away. 

But the night also has its softer moments. Around halfway through the set, strings enter the stage and phone lights from across the packed arena spring into life at the first chords of ‘Half the World Away’. It’s met in kind by the hair-raising sound of a 20,000-strong choir, all singing in unison with hands in the air – a real triumph of the evening’s programming.

An enlivening performance of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ is followed by ‘Married with Children’, which concludes the main set. Gallagher exits the stage after his last repetition of “Goodbye, I’m going home.” Naturally, two minutes later, he and the band re-emerge and give the crowd what they want – a trio of the album’s biggest hits. The frontman sounds a little drowned out during ‘Supersonic’, but the audience is having too much fun to care, lost in the revelry of collective nostalgia. It’s a palpable sensation that grows through ‘Slide Away’, after which Gallagher announces the next song is “definitely” the last of the night, the crowd-pleasing ‘Live Forever’.

After a thorough show of appreciation from the arena and a couple of bows, he exits the stage again, only to return once more. He and the band dive straight into a jangling cover of The Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’. It’s a song that closed nearly every show Oasis played in their final year – a befitting conclusion to an evening of passionate reminiscence.

Words: Dan McCarthy
Photography: Connie Burke

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