It was a very special occasion indeed when former Oasis front-man Liam Gallagher came to 3Arena, in Dublin towards the end of November. And afterwards, there was a hootenanny in the centre of town that lifted the gathered throng into another dimension. By Will Russell.
Iwoke feeling disinterred, my remains thrown on the bone-heap. The previous day on the muck had left me in ribbons. Now, I had this cursed assignment to fulfil. The previous evening, full of the joys, I had accepted a drunken proposal and now they were coming for me. I was no longer eager. I remembered my delighted fizzóg on accepting it. It appalled me now.
What made it worse was that I had gone to a whole heap of trouble in having it offered it to me. I wanted to see Oasis, in any manifestation. Over twenty-five years ago, in September 1994, I was living in a house in the west of Ireland with a bunch of filthy animals. We never cleaned up and there was never any food. Beside us, sent from heaven, were five pretty RTC girls, fresh out of Loreto blue, smart, eager, pretty. Often, late and drunk, I’d tap their door and in they would let me, give me a sandwich and a couch with a clean duvet to crash under. They reminded me of my sisters. Of my home. Jesus.
They had a terrible taste in music. Terry Wogan dinner party music. But, man, it was damn sexy when they danced to Garth Brooks and it blew your mind when they lip-synced to Alanis Morissette. Rummaging through their cassettes and CD’s, I found Definitely Maybe. I hated the album cover. They looked like the university type that I was failing miserably at being. Wine and blazers and good chums who looked bookish. And Burt Bacharach. Jesus, I was a neanderthal. I stuck it on. I turned it off. ‘Rock and Roll Star’ reminded me of ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…’ Remember that cursed show? Christ, it filled me with unreasonable, inexplicable dread.
You will think it incredible. Not that I flicked it off. But that I had heard nothing of Oasis. They’d already released ‘Supersonic’, performed ‘Shakermaker’ on TOTP, ‘Live Forever’ had graced the top ten and Definitely Maybe was the fastest-selling debut album of all time the previous month. You are right, it was incredible. I was a punk, living with a bunch of filthy beasts in a house with no TV, no radio, just cassette players constantly winding blues and psychedelia. We were so out of touch, it’s embarrassing, especially when I think about how hip we presumed we were.
I missed that whole winter of Oasis. Whilst they were conquering the world. I was finding it difficult to leave the house. I was like a man under house-arrest whilst they were ripping the arse out of the world. I was getting reefed to Zeppelin II, whilst they were Zeppelining California. Lolling around in a messy grunge, we noodled on guitars, trying something, but we were shite and lazy, it always just descended into us bulubus and screaming Pogues songs at one another.
I saw the video to ‘Whatever’ in Monroes Tavern on Dominick Street, Galway on a pissy cold St. Stephen’s Day, it was ‘California Dreamin’’ for me, I took that single out of a record shop on The Old Main Drag, it contained ‘Slide Away’ and ‘Half the World Away’. I took the boat to England on New Year’s Day.
So a couple of nights back, when I was out drinking with The Duke and Ace Face, they got to telling me about the Liam Gallagher Hootenanny that they were putting on the following night. So, I pitched, that I should be brought along because well, I had perspective, and I could write something about the night from that perspective. It was loose. They took me on. There was drink taken.
A SYD BARRETT PANG TO THE HEART
They were late. So late, I reckoned they had jettisoned me. I went back to bed. I was jerked awake by wolf whistles right under my window and voices calling,
“Hunky! Wake up man! It’s Oasis today!’
I squeezed a crack in the curtains, peered down with one eyeball. The Duke and Ace Face. Fresh as daisies, looking up at my window, smiling widely and waving urgently.
“Come on, man! Time to go to work! We’ll wait for you at Jumbo’s.”
Jumbo’s Clown Room was stuffed with the usual suspects. The Duke and Ace Face were leaning on the bar, the pair of them scooping pints. They cheered when they saw me.
“I’ll murder the pair of yous,” I said.
I was in good company. There was nothing The Duke, the promoter of tonight’s shindig, didn’t know about The Beatles and there was nothing, Ace Face, the DJ of tonight’s shindig, didn’t know about Oasis. I hadn’t an iota of where I featured: I strongly suspected they were just helping a buddy, giving him a good night out with just a smattering of purpose. Good Men All.
I slept the whole way, waking when the car stopped on North Lotts. Dublin looking appropriately miserable. The Duke wanted to check in with the band Electric Six, who were playing at The Academy that night, but the place was locked up, so we moved on to The Grand Social, where the Hootenanny would be taking place. We dropped the gear and walked across town to check in on The Blizzards, who were playing Whelan’s that night. Dublin was already all Christmas, a month too soon. There was a chap on O’Connell Bridge selling Liam Gallagher T-shirts in the rain. He was chirpy. At College Green, I stole in on a woman kissing her man. He was saying,
“Twenty years. And that’s it?”
And she walked away, leaving him sort of trailing after her. Makes you wonder. The poet in me thought about them falling in love to ‘Stand By Me’, although truthfully I knew I was sinking, thinking of something to write about, marvelling at what I was doing here. Grafton Street was heaving, there was a child singing like Billie Holiday and people interfering with Phil Lynott on Harry Street. McDaid’s looked jolly, loaded with rakes and lushes getting loose. I thought about JP Donleavy and the piece I am supposed to be writing on him: I’ll get started tomorrow, I told myself.
Whelan’s was locked up too, but they let us in. Out the back, they were setting up the stage, the back-drop emblazoned with The Blizzards. The Duke and Ace Face went upstairs to take tea with them. I waited, wandering the dark recesses of the cavernous club, looking at the framed pictures of the people who had once entertained the mobs there – I should have taken note of who they were; the only one I recall, is of a horrifically young and horrifically hungover Kings of Leon, at least that’s who I think it was.
We wandered about a few restaurants, before settling on a little Afghani place: all the other customers except us wore keffiyeh headdresses and thawbs. We waited the guts of half an hour for tasty chicken shwarma. It was almost seven before we had our first slup of porter in The Long Hall on Great George’s Street. It was nectar of the gods. We made our way over to Bad Bob’s in Temple Bar to meet heads that I never knew: they weren’t there, fortunately, for it was full of anyone who was not living in Dublin. We nipped into The Octagon Bar at The Clarence for a quiet one. It brought me back to when, for a time, I tried to get serious. It looked the same. Same joke to the barman — ‘Is Bono about?’
We took the tram to the venue. It was rammed with gig-goers, a fair few of them dressed like Liam Gallagher – Reni hats, zipped up parka jackets, long page-boy hair-dos, some wearing JL sunglasses. I was surprised. Thing is, it had been twenty years since I was at any sort of Oasis gig. I never went to any Beady Eye or High Flying Birds stuff. Not for the first time, I wondered about my being here at all. Many were swaggering about like Liam Gallagher, including a child of perhaps seven wearing a T-shirt which I think said, I Listen to Liam Gallagher With My Daddy. Sweet.
We had guest list seats in the eaves of the 3 Arena. Miles Kane was on stage. He was okay, but I was wondering what I was doing there. Everyone seemed pretty excited. I felt like an impostor. Then LG swaggered on, straight up to the mic, hands grappled behind his zipped up jacket, bowed legs, head back, bam, that vocal, strips away twenty years, the crowd are frenetic. It’s ‘Rock and Roll Star’ and it’s blasting. Not to be flicked off tonight. One reviewer in The Guardian, writing about a Liam Gallagher gig a few nights back, said that it was a rare thing where both performer and audience want to be elsewhere – an Oasis gig. It’s a good line, and perhaps some feel that way, but I didn’t get that. Perhaps as the youngest sibling with a heap of older brothers, one who gets out of that shadow – well, bully for them. Indeed, a touching moment, is when Liam’s son Gene comes on to play bongos and Liam says,
‘Two Gallaghers for the price of one.’
Everything evolves. And it’s all part of the mythology of the band. It will all be alright in the end. The crowd aren’t dissecting the spat. Beer flies, people smoke, the crowd below are surging, many are bare-chested, they look feral, young, it looks like the mid-nineties. They are here to enjoy themselves. Liam sings a quartet of his own – well we’re not walking out are we? The crowd mills into them. The band sounds damn hot. The three backing singers are damn cool. Man, there’s a line in one of those tracks, I really dig:
You could’ve looked for the sunshine, yeah
But you had to paint the whole thing black
Bonehead comes on for ‘Morning Glory’, at least I think he comes on then, he could have been on before: he looks esteemed, a man who’s lived the Oasis myth more than anyone except the brothers. It’s a classy touch.
Creeping Jesus, there are hordes of teenagers really digging it, you get the idea that this for them is current, not nostalgia. They’re manic. I think it’ s about ‘Colombia’ when they light their flares. Man, it looks wild. Liam rightfully psalms them from the stage.
Proof I’m the worst music correspondent for this gig, is that I had not heard ‘Once’ until now.
But we were wrong
You only get to do it once
Oh, it’s a Syd Barrett pang to the heart.
‘Why me? Why Not?’ is Lennon in New York, of which I, for one, will never tire, and I’m so glad that I crawled out of my drunken cot and made it here. We’re an hour in and the crowd are heaving, for ‘The River’. We’ve trickled down to the edge, many more have whipped their tops off, Reni hats still on – it’s ominous, it’s rock and roll – that kid I saw is vehemently yelling out the lyrics, shaking maracas, there are other kids dancing beside their dads, like brothers, the continuum. It’s boss. ‘Wonderwall’ follows it, I don’t know.
They strut off. The Duke turns to tell me, we have to head, we have to open doors for the Hootenanny: the thoughts of leaving piss me off, but the thoughts of this horde descending on that little room, thrills me. We stay for the big guns — ‘Acqueisence’, ‘Roll With It’, ‘Supersonic’ and leave at the first chorus of ‘Champagne Supernova’, walking out to the strains of it.
FASTER THAN A CANNONBALL
“You’ve both met before,” Ace Face asks me, and I say no, he says no, and I shake the hand of the man that I find out much later is Paul Gallagher. Everyone has something to do except me: the Duke mans the door, Ace Face flings on the first records of the night, I take a beer and perch myself beside the empty sound-desk. There’s only half-a-dozen others but they are already dancing to ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’. The Duke tells me to watch the door, it looks like there’s nobody coming, so I pay it no heed, but then they come, all at once, gasping, sweating, like they’d run down the quays, down the steps they pour, whooping and hollering. Ten minutes later, it’s rammed, but they continue to flood in; I don’t know where they go.
My perch must presume authority because many fall into me, machine-gunning questions:
That’s the main one, followed by,
“When will he be here?”
I try easing them down gently, then just lie, and say he’ll be here when he gets here, Joey The Lips style.
A schmozzle looks likely, as if we all know it’s going to happen and we might as well get it out of the way early. But everyone is too happy to bother. They all drift down the steps together, a choreographed circus, and away they go into the music. I take the odd beer up to Ace Face. A cool head is required. A cool head he is. People are clambering up onto the stage, they are loose:
“When will Liam be here?”
“Have ye any Blur?”
“Play ‘The Hindu Times’.”
I hang with him for a while. Up close, the crowd is really crazed: these songs from Oasis, The Beatles, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, Black Grape, The Charlatans, The Stone Roses, send them delirious. I return to my perch. I’m offered smokes. I’m offered sex. I’m offered drink. For nothing in return. Everyone is here to enjoy themselves. It’s communal. It’s like old times. A young chap tells me he’s in the band Fangclub, that he’s been on the road with Metallica, but tonight is a better night. I reckon he’s having me on. He looks like Digsy. We become a right pair of chums. He waxes lyrical about Beady Eye and High Flying Birds, and I realise that I’ve missed so much, that Oasis is far from over.
The first twangs of ‘Champagne Supernova’ momentarily silence the crowd, then we all sing it aloud, hands aloft, arms around one another.
Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannonball
Where were you while we were getting high?
Cripes. I’m welling up. And into ‘Live Forever’. And ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. Man, how did I forget how good this band are?
Eventually PG is on stage. The crowd are in a frenzy. I feel that Liam Gallagher could never attend one of these things. For PG, I fear for his life: he is mobbed throughout his set by delirious fans. The dance floor is moving with such a force, that they just have to be left to it: it’s exhausting work for the dancers, but they throw themselves into it with delirious abandon, oblivious to their confused and weakened state. Perhaps PG should have turned it off, allowed them to lie down and die, but you felt, looking at the scene, that calling a halt would have provoked a riot: they choose, rather, to follow his magic set through the long hours of the night. And they dance, dance, dance to the sounds of Madchester. By the time it all finishes with ‘Morning Glory’, it looks like The Raft of the Medusa. The lights come on and we all sing,
Need a little time to wake up
Need a little time to wake up wake up
Need a little time to wake up
Need a little time to rest your mind
Eric Burton by way of Austin, Texas – who had been playing elsewhere in the building with his Black Pumas outfit – approaches Ace Face and politely thanks him for a great set. I walk out onto the quays. Man! That felt good. Liam Gallagher is a great gig, check him out when he comes around your way again, and make sure and get to one of those After Show Hootenannys run by Up Close & Personal Promotions. I sing into the Dublin night-time sky,
Here’s a thought for every man
Who tries to understand what is in his hands
He walks along the open road of love and life
Surviving if he can
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
As he faced the sun he cast no shadow