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“Do we have any Oasis fans in the house?”: Liam Gallagher’s triumphant Boardmasters headline set shows exactly why he has the upper hand on Noel

Who needs an Oasis reunion anyway?



Dip into Cornwall’s Boardmasters festival and it feels like a thoroughly modern, genre-fluid event, a place for the Spotify generation to enjoy music irrespective of what it is and when it was made. Down in the Land of Saints tent, Yorkshire post-punks Yard Act plough their way through a surprisingly faithful version of Motörhead‘s Ace Of Spades. When north London rap prodigy Little Simz finishes her set, Thin Lizzy‘s Jailbreak plays over the PA. And over on The View stage, set low on a hillside blessed with dramatic views of the Celtic Sea, Cornish/Welsh songstress Gwenno performs songs in both languages for a noodle-dancing audience who presumably speak neither.  

In such an environment, Liam Gallagher feels like an  unadventurous choice of headliner, with a setlist that relies on decades-old material to do the heavy lifting and a stage act that hasn’t ever evolved much beyond standing around in a coat. But Liam has something the others don’t, and it’s the most valuable commodity in rock’n’roll: a catalogue of songs that are loved by people who weren’t around when they were made. When opener Morning Glory kicks into gear, people who weren’t born when Oasis played Knebworth bellow along like it’s been the soundtrack of their lives, and it probably has. In the ether, ever-present, since birth.

Liam knows it. Four times, across the course of the evening, as he switches from his own (moderately well-received) material to the (rapturously received) music of his old band, he asks the same question. 

“Do we have any Oasis fans in the house?”

Liam’s voice isn’t quite what it was. On Rock ‘N’ Roll Star it sounds like he’s struggling for breath, with the backing singers filling out the sound. On his own Paper Crown his voice cracks horribly as he reaches for notes that were easier to come by in the studio. But, by and large, his vocals are intact, with all the sneer and snarl of old. He still uses his tambourine and maracas as if they’re props to keep his hands busy rather than musical instruments, and he still speaks in enigmatic riddles.    

“I’ve never been to this festival, but it looks decent,” admits Liam, before delving into his repository of Cockney rhyming slang to question the weather: “It’s a bit Mork and Mindy though, know what I mean?”

His own material is cut from the same cloth as his old band’s, but lacks its nostalgic heft. Shockwave is curiously lifeless. Better Days takes a cue from Revolver-era Beatles and adds a twist of psychedelia, but fails to soar. More Power evokes the spirit of The Wall-era Pink Floyd. Diamond In The Dark is serviceable. They all sound like the old songs, but they aren’t the old songs, and that seems to matter more than it should. Only Once, a final solo track wheeled out before a set-closing run of five Oasis songs, threatens to charge the atmosphere in the same way as the big hits do. 

Even then, it’s a hard-fought battle. Stand By Me is a leaden trudge, lifted only by the audience’s role in elevating the chorus. Cigarettes And Alcohol is stodgy. The discombobulating, churning psych of Roll It Over falls flat, probably for no reason other than it isn’t Wonderwall. And then Wonderwall itself hoves into view, and the arena is transformed into a euphoric, Maine Road-themed fancy dress party, with a sea of smartphones capturing the moment and a sudden, dramatic increase in the number of fans clambering aboard the shoulders of others in order to monitor the rapture from a more elevated position. It’s truly a moment. Champagne Supernova and Live Forever complete the evening, and the state of jubilation is maintained. 

There’s no encore, but it doesn’t matter. Liam Gallagher has triumphed. And, as brother Noel slowly mutates into something of a reactionary grump, Liam begins to feel more and more like the one true bearer of the Oasis flame, the loveable man-of-the-people with a sideline in peculiar banter, forever preserved in bucket hat and sky blue amber.