Precisely two weeks had passed since my last gig, the gleeful drunken party that was Kosheen at the Garage on the 12th of March. Following that gig, I had finally succumbed to the plague of our times, COVID-19. It got me like a bad flu, and made me miss one gig, Paul Draper, who I’d been due to see at Islington Assembly Hall on the 23rd. But nothing could stop me from attending this once in a lifetime chance to see Liam Gallagher at the Royal Albert Hall.
Luckily, I felt pretty healthy as I headed out on this warm spring evening. As I strode towards the Underground, I felt that I had finally fully recovered from COVID. However, I had not anticipated the tube turmoil I would encounter, with South Kensington station shut and the Circle line terminating at Sloane Square. This meant I had an extra half hour’s walk in order to get to the Royal Albert Hall. As I became more and more overwhelmed by achy breathlessness whilst trekking through the SW7 streets, it soon became clear that I was not quite as recovered as I had thought, and by the time I got to the Hall I was very fatigued indeed.
I collapsed into my seat at the back of the stalls to watch the support bands, first Rats, who provided a reggae tinged indie rock, and then the tunefully punky protest pop of Kid Kapudi. Following these rousing sets, and feeling somewhat revived with the help of a large Merlot, it was time to wait for the main event, as shouts of “Lee-um! Lee-um!” punctuated any quiet moment. After some Teenage Cancer Trust Speeches, a football chant (the Manchester City Champions Chant, setlist.fm tells me) rang through the hall, then a single note of percussion heralded the chaotic cacophony of “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” starting up. It was a thrilling moment.
After a few minutes of this, the band appeared, followed by Liam ambling on stage waving maracas, and just as at the O2, launching into “Hello”. I had thought he might ignite his new “C’mon You Know” era by starting with its storming first single “Everything’s Electric”, but it seems that “Hello” is to Liam’s what “Motorcycle Emptiness” has become to the Manic Street Preachers – always and forever the opening track of a live set.
It’s hard not to compare this gig to Liam’s O2 show for NHS staff of last August, in which he was full of cheeky high spirits, and the thrill of finally being at a gig again was untouchably fresh and brightly shining. This gig, in comparison, felt much more like a solid rock’n’roll show, nothing more, nothing less. But the comparison is unfair. August 2021 was a unique time to be experiencing live music, where just being in a gig crowd felt like an extreme act of freedom-fighting rebellion. Here in 2022, we’re finally back to experiencing the live music scene the way we did pre-pandemic, and that in itself is something to be hugely grateful for.
And even a standard, solid rock’n’roll show is something extraordinary when it happens to be Liam Gallagher providing it. I eagerly anticipated revisiting some of the highlights of the O2 show, such as “Stand By Me”. This is a song I’d never given much thought to prior to that gig last August, and the shock of how incredible it sounded there made it a hugely emotional experience for me that night. At the Royal Albert Hall, although I knew what to expect, it was still glorious, especially as this time I could lean back and revel in the sight of the thousands in the main arena holding their arms aloft and hollering the song back at Liam.
But better even than that were some songs that hadn’t appeared on the O2 show’s setlist. “Slide Away” was particularly divine, but even it could not match the beauty of “Cast No Shadow”. With its combination of soft, sighing strings and Liam’s blunt yet affecting vocals, this is a song that helped me through a particularly difficult year when it was released in 1995. Watching Liam sing it in 2022, at a time when life was starting to be hindered by stresses and uncertainties, I felt its calming power once again, and it was a tonic I sorely needed.
There was the rowdy Beady Eye tune “Bring The Light”, and of course the rousing “Everything’s Electric”, blasting through the Hall and infusing us all with its strident positivity. Even more exciting was a new song, the title track to the then upcoming new album which was aired for the first time here. “C’mon You Know” sounded dirty and darkly thrilling on first hearing, and made me ponder whether Liam’s new album might become a contender for my personal Album Of The Year (spoiler: it very definitely is!)
“Live Forever” had an added pulse of emotion this evening, as Liam dedicated it to the Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, whose recent death had shocked many in the music world. And of course, it all came to a stirring, arms-in-the-air end with “Wonderwall”. Once again I had the chance to witness the 5000 strong crowd singing this most monumental anthem back at Liam, and it was a truly beautiful sight.
Given my post-COVID weariness, exacerbated by the long treks through Chelsea and South Kensington at either side of this gig, and the fact that I was much further away than I usually like to be, it turns out that this Liam Gallagher gig did not quite match up to the glory of the O2 show I saw last year. But it was still an incredible rock show, at one of the most spectacular venues on London, by our last living true rock’n’roll star. And it was all in aid of improving the lives of young people with cancer. As far as Saturday nights out in the London springtime go, you can’t get much better than that.