Live Review: Liam Gallagher’s ‘Down By The River Thames’

In anticipation of his livestreamed gig, rock-and-roll luminary Liam Gallagher promised “tracks from my two number one solo records as well as some stone-cold Oasis classics, some of which you haven’t heard me sing for a long, long time” – and this is exactly what he delivered, accompanied by his full nine-piece band atop a barge on the River Thames in London.

The unique, crowd-pleasing setlist, posted to Liam’s social media accounts on December 3rd, demonstrated that he is a man of his word, incorporating a multitude of much-loved Oasis classics, from both their debut record Definitely Maybe, and sophomore (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, alongside material from his emphatic solo records As You Were and Why Me? Why Not?

One may recall The Sex Pistols’ infamous performance on the River Thames in July 1977, which was terminated prematurely due to the police boarding the boat. On the contrary, thankfully, Gallagher’s performance was considerably less unruly, but he still succeeded gloriously in capturing the spirit and history of the iconic rock ‘n’ roll genre.

‘Gallagher’s characteristic sense of humour, and distinctive ‘don’t care’ attitude were further enhanced as he heckled passing boats.’

The gig commenced with the electrifying, iconic opening chords of ‘Definitely Maybe’ track Hello, a highly significant moment for Oasis fans, as prior to this livestream, the track hadn’t been played live in almost twenty years. However, when hearing Liam perform, this proved to be a difficult fact to comprehend, as the lyrics rolled off his tongue as if a year hadn’t passed since Knebworth in 1996. The emotional integrity of this was only enhanced by the booming presence of Oasis founding member and bassist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs.

Following this taste of decades past, Liam displayed no hesitation in moving swiftly on to showcasing some of his more recent work. The lead singles of his two solo albums, Wall of Glass and Shockwave, translated remarkably in a live setting, demonstrating that whilst Gallagher retains his former talents when performing the Oasis classics, he still has plenty more potential to be unleashed in his unfolding solo career. A harmonica-induced mid-tempo rocker with an Ian Brown-esque groove, Wall of Glass felt particularly at home upon the river, and is proof that Gallagher is back with all guns blazing.

Columbia’s presence on the setlist is of vastly minimal surprise, since it is Bonehead’s favourite song to perform live, as revealed on the band’s 2004 commemorative ‘Definitely Maybe’ DVD. It was followed directly by fellow seminal era track Fade Away, originally a B-side to single Cigarettes and Alcohol. This duo of nostalgic tracks, described as “very, very emo” by a braggadocious Gallagher, served as a fitting interlude amidst his heavier solo work.

A setlist stand-out was Liam’s solo track The River, the initial inspiration behind the name of the gig, followed by arguably his most outstanding solo effort, Once. Despite his brother and former Oasis bandmate Noel’s predictable Twitter quip of “It’s called Once which is the exact amount of times it should be played,” the track is an irrefutably beautiful and powerful affair – Bonehead himself admitted that he is a huge fan the track, confessing it was his most streamed song of the year.

‘Gallagher’s trademark oversized parka was, for once, entirely suitable attire for the occasion.’

The remaining portion of the set comprised of some of Oasis’ most renowned tunes. He largely avoided the obvious mainstream hits such as Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger, in favour of some deeper cuts. In true, unsurprising Liam Gallagher style, he also called out Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson – despite calling him ‘Doris’ rather than his actual name – midway through his performance of Cigarettes and Alcohol. His characteristic sense of humour, and distinctive ‘don’t care’ attitude were further enhanced as he heckled passing boats, and sneered at the London Eye, declaring it a “little, round, daft thing.”

It’s no secret that Liam has had recent struggles with his vocal performance, as a sufferer of the chronic condition Hashimoto’s disease. In February, he had to cut his show in Hamburg short after only four songs, resulting in the administration of a cortisone injection. Fast forward to December, and his renowned nasally style vocals now sound stronger, with the exception of some audible difficulty when performing some of the higher notes on tracks such as Champagne Supernova.

The encore, his latest single All You’re Dreaming Of, was a fitting end to the set – a warm, festive ballad, providing a moment where Liam’s vocals were really able to shine as the centre focus of the track. It concluded the gig on a charming, delicate and poignant note, depicting the importance of love and compassion during troubled times.

Gallagher previously coined Zoom gigs as “ridiculous”, living firmly by the mantra that “you’ve got to go big all the time.” Therefore, it seemed logical that instead of providing the archetypal livestreamed gig experience that has become synonymous with the lockdown music scene, the crowing Mancunian would pull out all the stops when it came to location. Picturesque, panoramic shots of the London skyline made for a dazzling backdrop to the livestream, and Gallagher’s trademark oversized parka was, for once, entirely suitable attire for the occasion.

‘‘Down By The River Thames’ pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved with live music via the internet.’

The performance was fresh and modern whilst simultaneously capturing the 90’s nostalgia that Oasis fans tenderly miss and crave. Despite a multitude of artists performing live-streamed gigs throughout the lockdown period this year, ‘Down By The River Thames’ was a unique experience that pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved with live music via the internet. Gallagher refused to let the pandemic prevent him from unleashing his full creative vision, resulting in a true triumph for the world of live-streamed gigs.

Written by: Gemma Cockrell

Edited by: Dominic Allum

Featured and article image courtesy of Liam Gallagher via Facebook. Article image courtesy of Rockwheels via Facebook.