By Mason Meyers
LONDON — Liam Gallagher’s Saturday Down by the River Thames livestream show began overlooking a large cargo boat lit like the Manchester icon’s favorite stadium, the Etihad; which he surely would be playing this time of year if not for the United Kingdom’s second COVID-19-induced lockdown. The boat’s cargo? An assortment of musical gizmos and two of the original members of Oasis—music instruments in hand.
Starting the show off with the appropriately titled “Hello,” Gallagher exuded levels of exaggerated swagger that only a middle-aged man who has spent the best part of 30 years playing to the world’s biggest music venues can understand. What followed—in the first of a handful of live performances timed with different parts of the world—was an hour-long ode to the days when “guitar music” dominated the charts and musicians were an untouchable entity, unbothered of offending or upsetting anyone who got in their way. If anyone is the poster-boy for that attitude who’s not yet in retirement, it’s Liam Gallagher.
Clad in a ridiculously large parka, shaking the questionably “Rock N Roll” maracas, Gallagher was at his most rock during “Halo,” off Why Me? Why Not? Gallagher blew surprisingly aggressively into a recorder (yes, the same notorious for elementary school recitals) before spitting it out in front of him and stomping away from it.
This aggression carried into the next song, “Shockwave.” The performance made it clear he didn’t need his older brother, Noel, yet at the same time, the inclusion of former Oasis guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs helped, even if he did struggle to see the power chords he played from under his gigantic bucket hat.
At first, Gallagher’s decision to perform a concert while traveling down a river from a city to which he has no obvious link seemed like an odd one. His hometown of Manchester has a river of its own, after all. But watching him remark to the London Eye, “I couldn’t give less of a fuck about you, little round daft thing,” made his reasoning clear. It alone made the location choice perfect; not to mention the beautiful panoramic shots of London’s beautiful skyline that were spliced throughout.
The location turned out to act as a perfect backdrop for an oddly fresh, yet nostalgic performance. Watching Bonehead hunch over his amp at the back of the boat, slapping the body to make the feedback scream, was reminiscent of Oasis’ infamous ‘96 Knebworth show and was perfectly accompanied with the glow of Southwark’s iconic OXO tower.
The performance, however, wasn’t all tea and crumpets. Gallagher’s unfortunately ever-straining voice was highlighted during the slower songs like “Why Me? Why Not?” And on “Champagne Supernova,” he even sounded like a crying Wario (Mario’s doppelganger) at points.
Down by the River Thames, while not replicating the feel of watching a real Liam Gallagher show in the slightest, was an inexplicable triumph in musical filmmaking, and major kudos must be given to all involved, with the band deserving the greatest admiration of all. This is, of course, because as anyone who was taken a boat ride down The Thames outside of summer knows, your hands take a complete beating from that os-so-famous English weather. We can only hope that they, like us, have just recovered from the performance.