"Nine months later, like an unplanned baby, Liam's solo career has arrived." Mail on Sunday, June 4 2017

Liam Gallagher
Ritz, Manchester

Last August, Liam Gallagher told Q magazine that he would not be going solo, because he wasn’t something unprintable. Nine months later, like an unplanned baby, Liam’s solo career has arrived. He announced it in an interview with the NME that included no fewer than 70 sets of asterisks.

On Tuesday, he played his first solo gig, and it was two occasions rolled into one. On the one hand, it was Liam’s second attempt to reboot his career, post-Oasis, after failing to set the world alight with his band Beady Eye. As much as he bad-mouths his brother Noel, Liam has faltered since they fell out, whereas Noel has done better than expected. Liam, if not an absolute beginner, is back at the bottom of the hill with his boulder.

On the other hand, this is Manchester, where the Gallaghers are royalty, and royal visits are much needed after the murder of 22 music lovers at the arena. Never mind the solo career – just by standing on stage, Liam is making a statement, bringing solace and embodying defiance. The title of his forthcoming album, As You Were, is emblazoned on the bass drum, and it captures the mood.

Just behind him is a line of pale cylinders, six inches tall, which, in other circumstances, you might have taken to be cans of lager. In fact they are candles, one each for the 22 who died: a simple, elegant, powerful memorial.

Oasis’s audiences came as close to football crowds as music gets, and here the fans hurl themselves into three chants – ‘Liam, Liam’, ‘Manchester, la-la-la’, and best of all ‘Stand up for the 22’, sung to the tune of Go West. There is nothing like singing for expressing grief.

When Liam last played the Ritz, two summers ago with Beady Eye, he sang only two Oasis songs all evening. Tonight, he opens with two – Rock’n’Roll Star and Morning Glory – which is just what the fans want. Wearing his trademark cagoule, sticking his hands behind his back, lacing his syllables with sullen charisma, looking as if he wants to deck someone, Liam couldn’t be more like Liam if he tried.

The setlist feels as if it was worked out on the back of a packet of fags. The two Oasis tracks are followed by four new ones, two more from Oasis, four more new ones, and finally another two from Oasis. There’s nothing at all by Beady Eye, who are wiped from the slate like a short-lived marriage.

All the oldies are received deliriously, even though Liam and his five-piece band steer clear of Oasis’ two biggest hits, Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger. The new songs, naturally, get a more muted reception. In this steaming club, with its feverish atmosphere, it’s hard to judge them. There are hints of the Beatles, which is both a plus and a minus – the danger is that they will be knock-offs of knock-offs.

You can see why Beady Eye didn't fly: Liam doesn’t bother to sell the new songs. But you can also see why he is a star. His demeanour, handed down from Hamlet to Brando to Lennon, speaks to the eternal teenager in all of us.

This is a gig of two halves, two lives. On one of them, the jury is out; on the other, the people have spoken – or rather sung. After Liam finishes with a fine, raw version of Live Forever, accompanied only by maracas, the crowd take the cue and sing by themselves. Their rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger, the emblem of Manchester's resilience, is the most touching moment of the evening. But it wouldn’t have happened without Liam.