Liam Gallagher looks back (not in anger) and moves forward at First Ave

Liam Gallagher at First Avenue

Liam Gallagher at First Avenue Dane Ray Messall

There’s no going back to a time before Oasis.

They changed the rock and roll landscape forever, for better and for worse. Thankfully, Liam Gallagher has finally started to embrace his former band’s legacy in his solo career.

The former Oasis frontman brought his As You Were tour to a sold-out and boisterous First Avenue on Monday night. Rather than ignoring his past like he did with his previous band, Beady Eye (who played an uninspired set here in 2011), he and his new five-piece backing band blasted through a series of raucous Oasis anthems that comprised half of the group’s rapid-fire 65-minute set.

While the songs from Liam’s recently released solo record, As You Were, will never match the quality of the celebrated Britpop anthems of Oasis, that album is the best collection of tunes either Gallagher brother has offered up since their acrimonious split in 2009. The seven new tracks shared during the set sounded feisty and inspired – and they’d better, because weak material would come off as daft when heard alongside stone cold hits like “Morning Glory” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol.”

Gallagher has always had the swagger and cocksure attitude that rock fans look for in a frontman, and he’s vain enough to know it. After a pre-set dose of Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times” hyped up the crowd, Liam strolled out on stage in an anorak, with a closely shorn haircut, waved his tambourine, and led the band through storming takes on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory,” with the audience singing along in full voice.

Of course, you can only wonder how awesome it would be if Noel were back by his brother’s side playing these potent pub anthems together once again. But if that were the case, the venue would have to quadruple in size, and much of the wild intimacy would be lost. Oasis’ songs were born to be played in clubs just like First Ave, and to hear them ring out loudly in that room once again was absolutely glorious.

Liam performs with the confidence of someone who knows that the Oasis songs he is singing are still better than anything currently being released or on the radio. He probably feels that way about As You Were, as well. And that’s perhaps why most of us gravitated towards Oasis in the first place. They believed they were the best fucking band in the world, and we went along for the ride, wanting to share in that arrogant grandeur.

Of course, journeys that epic never last as long as you’d like or end up where you think they would. So now Liam is striking a fine balance between keeping those old songs alight for the fans who have stuck with him, and creating meaningful material that reflects where he’s at creatively in his mid-40s. His two new singles, “Wall of Glass” and “For What It’s Worth,” sounded spirited, and more reflective numbers like “I’ve All I Need” and “Bold” revealed a genuine, contemplative side of Liam, reflecting an artist looking back on his influences and impact.

Gallagher has held massive crowds at Knebworth, Glastonbury, and Maine Road in the palm of his hands in the past, so ruling over a club like First Ave appeared effortless. And when you have songs as absolutely massive as “Some Might Say” and “Slide Away” in your arsenal, you can win over any crowd. Singing along to them helped us all feel younger and invincible, if only for a moment. “I Get By” and “You Better Run” were reminders to make the most of days and not dwell on the past, but it was hard not to take an affectionate glimpse back at the excess, opulence, and hazy optimism of the late ‘90s when “Be Here Now” filled the room.

The brief encore was a triumph, with a high octane run through of “Cigarettes and Alcohol” followed by a stripped down rendition of “Live Forever” that turned into a lusty crowd singalong. We were trying desperately to cling to our fading youth for just a moment longer, letting Liam Gallagher convince us once again that we can all be eternal, and music will help see us through.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
Morning Glory
Greedy Soul
Wall of Glass
I’ve All I Need
For What It’s Worth
Some Might Say
Slide Away
I Get By
You Better Run
Be Here Now

Cigarettes and Alcohol
Live Forever