Liam Gal­lagher: As It Was

Review: From the head-spinning heights of the Champagne Supernova years to the collapse of Beady Eye, As It Was follows the comeback of the decade.

Rat­ing: 45

LIAM, LIAM, LIAMLIAM!”

Red car­pet film pre­mieres don’t nor­mal­ly run like this. Nor­mal­ly they’re glitzy affairs involv­ing peo­ple dressed for a day in a very posh court, Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters grin­ning and grip­ping – hel­lo, Tom Cruise – and crash-bar­ri­ered hordes of shout­ing paps and squeal­ing fans.

They don’t involve an audi­ence of bay­ing, chant­i­ng dis­ci­ples; a tat­ted-up Louis Tom­lin­son order­ing free pints; Line of Dutys Vicky McClure punch­ing the air; Bob­by Gille­spie pop­ping in some ear-plugs; and a clap­ping, whoop­ing roar of cheers for the key line of dia­logue from the movie.

Noel’s changed. He’s turned into a mas­sive cunt.”

So it goes at As It Was. The doc­u­men­tary about the res­ur­rec­tion of the younger Gal­lagher after the messy split, ten years ago, of Oasis, then the uned­i­fy­ing col­lapse of next band Beady Eye, launched last night (Thurs­day 6th June) with an indie-celeb event at the recent­ly reopened Vic­to­ri­an-era the­atre at Alexan­dra Palace.

A film that chron­i­cles the unan­tic­i­pat­ed solo suc­cess of the free­wheel­ing Oasis foot­sol­dier – let’s nick­name it Sav­ing Pri­vate Liam’ – opened, appro­pri­ate­ly enough, on London’s high­est point. As the man of the hour jokes (prob­a­bly) to the cam­eras who fol­lowed him through­out the 201718 cam­paign in sup­port of block­buster album As You Were: Now I only have two grams before a gig. Used to be eight.”

Unsur­pris­ing­ly for an autho­rised, all-access doc made in part­ner­ship with his label and man­age­ment, As It Was is a sym­pa­thet­ic por­trait of the artist as a mid­dle-aged come­back kid. Equal­ly, though, it doesn’t pull its punches.

The first quar­ter deals with the gid­dy high (sin­gu­lar) and spi­ralling lows that attend­ed the fag-end of Oasis. It chron­i­cles the col­lapse of Beady Eye, 2013’s actu­al­ly bril­liant sec­ond album BE (imag­i­na­tive­ly pro­duced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek) over­shad­owed by per­son­al calami­ty. Let’s just say Liam’s pri­vate life was espe­cial­ly chaot­ic at that time.

It shows, too, a root­less Liam try­ing to find his feet else­where, with the launch of Mod-tas­tic cloth­ing line Pret­ty Green. Who am I?” he bog­gles to the cam­era in the back of the car while shilling for the brand in Copen­hagen. Fuck knows who I am any more!” He’s smil­ing, but there’s des­per­a­tion in his eyes. Not to men­tion his haircut.

And then, boom. With the aid of new girl­friend and co-man­ag­er Deb­bie Gwyther, Liam turns it around. Against all rea­son­able expec­ta­tions, 2017’s As You Were sold in old-fash­ioned num­bers: 103,000 copies in its first week of release alone.

This was a new Liam, with a (slight­ly) new feel about him. Younger fans, many not born when Def­i­nite­ly Maybe was released in 1994, start­ed turn­ing out in droves to see him. Live, Liam respond­ed in kind – less baity aggro, more doing-it-for-the-kids inclusiveness.

There’s footage of his first live show, at Manchester’s Ritz club, in May 2017, a week after the mur­der of 22 fans at the Ari­ana Grande show in the city. There’s footage, too, of his scorch­ing per­for­mance on Glastonbury’s Oth­er Stage a cou­ple of months later.

I was at both of those. In Man­ches­ter, 22 can­dles were placed on the drum ris­er to memo­ri­alise the dead. The out­pour­ing of grief, defi­ance and, ulti­mate­ly, uplift, was stag­ger­ing to expe­ri­ence, waves of emo­tion flow­ing from singer to audi­ence and back again. The local hero came home and came good. 

At Glas­ton­bury, mean­while, he sim­ply took the roof off. No small feat in a field. I’ve nev­er seen a sec­ond stage crowd like it. A new mass of fans were falling in love with Liam.

Still, As It Was lets Gwyther point out his flaws, his stu­pid deci­sions, his arro­gance. It also gives air time to third broth­er Paul Gal­lagher, and to their mum Peg­gy, both of whom chide Liam for his role in the ongo­ing beef with Noel. But as one Manc-accent­ed voiceover – Paul? Ex-Oasis gui­tarist Bone­head? – puts it: when­ev­er Liam writes, sings or per­forms, he’s doing it for an audi­ence of one. He’s doing it for Noel.

There’s more pathos in oth­er aspects of the Gal­lagher fam­i­ly dynam­ic. The film has love­ly footage of Liam bond­ing with sons Gene and Lennon – and with daugh­ter Mol­ly, hith­er­to long-estranged from Liam on account of dad being, frankly, a bit of a clown back in the day. Talk­ing to the cam­eras, Liam is man enough to admit as much, and also pay due respect to his sons’ mums, Pat­sy Ken­sit and Nicole Appleton.

Ulti­mate­ly, though, As It Was is a vic­to­ry lap, a pre­served-on-film encap­su­la­tion of how Liam smashed it all over again, on his terms, with his tunes (albeit writ­ten with new collaborators).

And it’s also a starter’s pis­tol: phase two of The Come­back Kid’s jour­ney starts today, with the release of new sin­gle Shock­wave. Liam unveiled it last night, with a six-song set per­formed imme­di­ate­ly after the screen­ing. He bowled on in a par­ka (obvs), smashed out Rock and Roll Star and Cham­pagne Super­no­va, bigged up the solo sin­gles, then bowled off again, triumphant.

Then it was off to the after­par­ty, where the age­ing Brit­pop/­post-Brit­pop aris­toc­ra­cy (Gille­spie, Richard Ashcroft, Tom Meighan from Kasabi­an, Miles Kane) – and him out of One Direc­tion – whooped it up at the free bar. I took a self­ie with Paul Gal­lagher and the indie-lov­ing for­mer edi­tor of The Sun. Why not? It was that kind of night. Also, Louis Tom­lin­son wasn’t up for one.

A prop­er cel­e­bra­tion, for a prop­er rock’n’roll star. There wasn’t a dry pint glass in the house. 

As It Was is in cin­e­mas from today. Shock­wave is out today


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