Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘MTV Unplugged (Live At Hull City Hall)’ – Unplugged Redemption?

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Relationships can be very complicated. The most complicated relationship, in my opinion, has to got be marriage – the intermingling of two, non-gender-specific souls for (maybe) life. Love is love here at B&V. I mean, if it lasts any amount of time marriage is certainly going to be complicated. As I’ve stated here before, I’ve always viewed marriage (and all relationships, really) as the classic Venn Diagram. If you remember from grade school, a Venn Diagram is two overlapping circles. The two circles each represent individuals in the relationship. The overlapping part is what they share – common interests, goals and likes/dislikes. The non-overlapping part is that part of ourselves that sustains itself outside of the relationship or better put, it’s the extra stuff we bring to the table.

Really, any aspect of your relationship – and this could be any relationship not just marriage – could be represented by the Venn Diagram. This is never more true than when we talk about music. When I met the Rock Chick, luckily we had a ton of shared, loved music. But there was a lot of great music she turned me onto that I had missed. She turned me onto the Cult, Motley Crue, and helped me rediscover Green Day, amongst many other bands. I like to think I turned her onto some music, but other than expanding her interest in the Stones, I can’t really say what that might be. Now, if I may continue the whole weird Venn Diagram thing, there was music that was…”outside” the overlapping part, if you follow me. No band represents the Rock Chick and my musical divergence more than Oasis. My God, she loves Oasis. And I was, well, lukewarm at best.

Speaking of difficult relationships, Oasis was founded by two siblings, Noel and Liam Gallagher in Manchester, England. If ever there was a poster child for brothers not forming a band, it’s Oasis (The Mark of Cain: When Brothers Form Bands). These guys made the Robinson brothers in the Black Crowes look like the Walton family. Any time they were on MTV being interviewed they had to use subtitles. The brothers Gallagher argued so much they imploded any goodwill and momentum they had in the States. Despite that, their late career albums were kick ass – especially Don’t Believe The Truth and Dig Out Your Soul. In the early ’00s, whenever we had a party I’d labor over playlists, mixing and weaving all these great tunes together to play for the bash and mesmerize my friends. Invariably 30 minutes into it my wife’s friend, who I’ll call Rich because that’s his name, would sidle up to me and say, “Say dude, can we put on the new Oasis’ album?” Apparently the Rock Chick was not the only fan of Oasis in my new reality of being married. So much for my playlist, crank “Lyla.”

It didn’t help that the Rock Chick and I trekked all the way out to Denver to see Oasis live at Red Rocks. I will admit they were amazing that night – it helped that we were in the front row, which really makes you feel like you’re part of the show and its a majestic venue. Unfortunately, the evening took a sour turn when Liam caught me air-guitaring to one track and mocked me shamelessly… he put up one hand, strummed the other and sort of shimmied his hips. I laughed, but clearly I was wounded. I keep promising the Rock Chick I’ll get over it… and I will admit the whole “air-guitar” thing wasn’t exactly cool. I’ve sort of stopped doing that… every time I did the Rock Chick would do that same Liam imitation with the feminine hip shimmy. It took the joy out of it but I’m getting off point here.

Oasis finally broke up. I read somewhere that Liam had gone so far as to question the paternity of one of Noel’s daughters. Really ugly stuff there. And while I’ll always begrudge Liam ruining my air guitar jones, Noel is no saint. I’ll probably never forgive him for calling Michael Hutchence of INXS a has-been at that European awards show (Review: Documentary, ‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence’). Karma did catch up with Noel and Oasis is no more. I know a lot of fans clamor for Oasis to reunite – especially in the UK and well, in my house – but to me, the farther Liam has gotten away from Noel, the better I think he gets.

When Liam and the rest of the gang from Oasis split with Noel they formed Beady Eye. While the second album never saw release here in the U.S., and I may be crazy but I thought Different Gear, Still Speeding was a great record. When Beady Eye imploded I read somewhere, in response to Liam suggesting Oasis reunite, Noel said that Liam needed to go solo and “put it out there.” Apparently Liam was listening because he released a solo album shortly after that, his first. Now, I have to admit, of my own volition I would not have followed Liam into his solo career but I am still married to the Rock Chick, thank God, and she bought his first LP As You Were and to my surprise that album delivered the goods (LP Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘As You Were’ A Pleasant Surprise From an Unpleasant Man). Then, he did it again on the follow up Why Me? Why Not. (LP Review: Liam Gallagher’s ‘Why Me? Why Not.’). Again, the farther away from Noel he gets, the better his music gets. Even I have to admit, the guy was one of the best vocalists to come up in the 90s. And his “angry young man” thing has turned into a sneering curmudgeon-y thing that I can sort of relate to. “You kids rock but get off of my lawn.”

Just a few months ago (in June), Liam released a new live album, MTV Unplugged (Live At Hull City Hall). Many of you may remember in August of 1996 that Oasis performed on MTV Unplugged and it was an unmitigated disaster. At the last minute the band announced that Liam “wasn’t feeling well” and that Noel would sing all the songs. “Wasn’t feeling well” was a euphemism for Liam being drunk… utterly shit-faced. While Noel gamely tried to sing all the big Oasis tracks he just was, well, not Liam. For his part, Liam sat in the balcony, drinking, throwing limes at the band and heckling them. And people wonder why I couldn’t get into Oasis? Kind of a dick move, Liam.

As many regular readers know, I’m a big fan of the Unplugged series, B&V’s Favorite MTV “Unplugged” LPs. And, in conjunction to that, I’m a huge fan of live albums, period (BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums). Who doesn’t love a good live album? And folks, this is a really good live album. Liam has returned to MTV Unplugged and has yes, redeemed himself this time. He even asks, “Who gets to do MTV twice?” – the answer Liam is R.E.M. and Neil Young – before mumbling “Actually, once.” His great voice, which only seems to get better with age, paired with acoustic guitar and strings (the orchestra is really top notch here and would make classic Elton John jealous) is just fantastic. As a bonus for the Oasis fans, Paul Arthurs aka Bonehead (a rather unfortunate nickname), a founding member of Oasis shows up on four of the songs. Maybe not the Oasis reunion we want, but perhaps the Oasis reunion we deserve? (I just can’t resist a Batman reference, can I?).

The tracks are an even mix of Liam solo tracks (5) and Oasis tunes (5). After starting with the great As You Were opening track “Wall of Glass” Liam jumps into the Oasis catalog with “Some Might Say.” I have to say, the audience is adoring. Between tracks they yell “Liam, Liam” lustily. After a couple of Why Me? Why Not. tracks Liam does the Be Here Now track “Stand By Me” to the delight of the crowd. Then in a cheeky move, he sings “Sad Song” a Noel-sung bonus track from the deluxe version of What’s the Story Morning Glory. Great deep track and yes, much better with Liam on lead vocals, sorry Noel.

He weaves from solo to Oasis tracks seamlessly until the inevitable, yet still beautiful closer “Champagne Supernova.” It was a really great ending. The first time the Rock Chick played this for me, I thought, man that’s good. But I never dreamed I’d go back to it. However, whenever I decide to go musically exploring out on Spotify, to hear things I haven’t listened to in a while or haven’t ever heard at all – I find myself returning to MTV Unplugged Live At Hull City Hall. This isn’t Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous or the Allman Brothers Band Live At the Fillmore East, no this is nothing that epic. But it is a great, solid live album with fantastic vocals. It’s an addictive listen and I recommend any fans of Oasis or Liam to check this one out. I think you’ll be rewarded.

Be safe out there! Cheers!

 

LP Review: Liam Gallagher’s ‘Why Me? Why Not.’

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As I have often shared here on B&V, I got married later than most of my friends…after a life of misadventure. I got married in my late 30s and by then I’d pretty much settled on the group of people I considered “friends.” My attitude was simple… I had enough friends, I didn’t need any more. I admit, it was a short sighted attitude to take at the time. Most my friends are parents now and have disappeared into what I call the “parent tunnel.” Thank God my friend Doug is still around for the stray beer every now and again (and yes, we’re overdue for one of those).

I met my wife during this period of thinking I had enough friends. And, like me, she brought her own group of friends with her into the relationship. I’m sure it’s the same for people who get married in their 20s or in their 60s for that matter. Your partner always brings their own set of friends with them. I wasn’t really emotionally prepared for that. I was a bit of a loner. I went from hanging out with people who were as comfortable to me as an old Stones’ concert T-shirt to meeting all of these new people. Don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot of those people… the late, great Nancy springs to mind (The Rock and Roll Drinking Songs iPod Playlist (for Nancy, my friend)), as does the dynamic duo of J&P. I generally think of most of my wife’s friends as my own friends now… although in truth they only put up with me because of her.

The hardest part of getting to know my wife’s friends was the “hanging out as couples” thing. Suddenly I was expected to join her and her gal pal and the gal pal’s husband for dinners where I was expected to show up sober and converse like an adult. I was given strict instructions to talk about things other than rock and roll… grrr. I never realized how hard it was to find another couple that you both enjoy hanging out with. One of the early exceptions to this rule was this wonderful couple my wife had known for years, who I’ll call Tracy and Rich, because well, those are their names. When we moved into our house together, the Rock Chick and I started throwing parties. I would labor for hours to put together a playlist for these parties. Stuff that was rocking but not any melt-your-face metal… nothing too obscure, no B-sides, no Allman Brothers’ “Mountain Jam” (which goes on for thirty minutes). It was hard work, but I felt good about it. Invariably, we’d be at the party, me glorying in the majesty of my playlist when Rich, from the aforementioned couple, would approach me and say, “Hey man, can you put on that new Oasis album?” The next thing I’d know, my playlist was on the scrapheap of history and we were jamming on Don’t Believe The Truth. Sigh.

Oasis was a band that I had largely ignored during their heyday. They were in that post-Nirvana wave of rock bands that didn’t catch my attention the way Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice In Chains did. I vaguely remember hearing them described as Brit-pop but that might be wrong. I do remember seeing them on MTV and despite speaking English, the channel had to use subtitles. I remember the lead singer Liam Gallagher, when he’d heard some criticism leveled at Oasis by George Harrison, saying that Harrison was “a nipple.” Dude, its George fucking Harrison? What is a nipple? I mean, I know what a nipple is, but why would you call someone that?

But, as I was to learn quickly, like the group of friends that your significant other brings into a relationship, there’s a host of music coming with them too. And, at my age, I’d already pretty much determined which bands I was going to listen to. For the most part my wife and my musical taste are that perfect Venn Diagram, with a tremendous overlap in the middle. She’s turned me onto some great bands over the years. Green Day was one she brought me back to. And, like Rich, she loved Oasis. I will admit, their last few albums were fantastic – Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul are the type of albums this blog was founded to talk about. We actually saw Oasis at Red Rocks in Denver on the tour for Don’t Believe the Truth and somehow we scored first row tickets. I made the mistake of playing air-guitar and Liam not only saw me, the nipple mocked me. They certainly make it hard to slip onto the bandwagon.

I followed, or actually the Rock Chick followed Liam into Beady Eye after Oasis broke up. After their first album, I lost interest. Then Liam went solo and in 2017 released As You Were and I’ll admit to being extremely, pleasantly surprised (LP Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘As You Were’ A Pleasant Surprise From an Unpleasant Man). That was truly a great album. The song “Chinatown” is still in high rotation around here. I was doing some musical spelunking a few Friday’s ago and discovered Liam was back with a new album, Why Me? Why Not. 

I’ll start off by saying, I really like this new album. He brought back the same producers from As You Were, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt and they have again crafted a great Oasis-like album. Liam may miss his brother Noel’s songwriting a bit but he’s found some perfect collaborators and he’s making some of the best music of his career. I will say, overall, this album is not as fabulous as his first record, but it’s a very strong sophomore effort. Maybe my expectations were just higher after that first record? As the Rock Chick said, while generally being positive about the record, “There’s just no “Chinatown” here, babe.” Harsh? Liam, along with his producers have found a way to make music that sounds fresh/new at the same time as sounding “retro.”

The album kicks off with the first single, a rocking tune, “Shockwave” that starts with guitar riffs and harmonica, hell yes! It fades into my favorite track here, the shimmery, acoustic “One of Us” where Liam’s voice just soars. The first true ballad on the album is up next with the beautiful “Once.” I’m very impressed with the wealth of emotions Liam expresses in this group of songs. He’s upbeat (almost too much so) on tracks like “Now That I’ve Found You” and darker on “The River” and even sad on “Meadow.” His voice is the key to tying all of this together.

I will say, there are a couple of moments where he veers too far into “pop” territory. The aforementioned “Now That I Found You” which the Rock Chick didn’t like but I did is an example. I feel there’s a little vulnerability underneath the happy bluster of that track and it pulled me in but it is very pop. The only track I didn’t like was “Halo” as its almost, dare I say, “jaunty.” I don’t do jaunty. It has someone hammering on the piano like it’s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and not in a good way. The final track “Glimmer” is another poppy track that sort of lost me…

That said, there are a lot of songs I like here… “Gone” almost sounds like it’s from the soundtrack of a “spaghetti western” and I mean that as a compliment. “Alright Now” is a beautiful, wistful track. “Be Still” has a great riff which almost reminds me of “Downbound Train” (only at the very beginning, and the Rock Chick says I’m nuts). Even on first listen each song seemed to open up and reveal something special to me. I credit Kurstin and Wyatt for that effect…

I highly recommend this record and I’ll say it now, you can expect this record to be on my “best of” albums of the year. I highly recommend checking out Why Me? Why Not. even if Liam can be a bit of a nipple now and then…and yes, I still play air guitar Liam… deal with it.

Cheers and Happy Autumn, folks!

 

Liam Gallagher: The First Two Songs From “As You Were”

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In the interest of full disclosure, I never liked Oasis.

The Brothers Gallagher were always such buffoons. I remember seeing them on MTV back when MTV still featured music and they’d have to put subtitles under their dialogue. I never thought it was an issue with their accents, these guys were just thick. Who other than brothers would get into a fight on stage. You have one job as a musician, play music… and you get into a fight on stage. Christ, man, pull your heads out of your asses.

I remember when I first heard Oasis I thought, these guys are ripping off the Beatles. George Harrison was interviewed and mentioned he thought they were derivative and Liam Gallagher, the stupid one of the two brothers (and that’s saying a lot), responded by calling George “a nipple.” Maybe that’s British slang I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve always thought of nipples as good things, but I was raised clandestinely reading my dad’s Playboys… And as Robin Williams used to say, “Isn’t it great that men have nipples too?” but I digress.

In the latter part of their career I thought Oasis switched from ripping off the Beatles to ripping off the Stones. The riffs got harder. As a Stones fan, I at least appreciated the effort. Though, I’ll admit, I remained somewhat unmoved. The Beatles influence was still pretty strong.

As fate would have it, the dawn of a new millennium brought the Rock Chick into my life.  And, as I’ve documented many times before, the Rock Chick turned me on to a lot of really great music (and still does to this day). I wouldn’t have followed Green Day as intensely without her influence. I’d basically stopped listening to AC/DC’s music after ‘For Those About To Rock’ and the Rock Chick totally reintroduced me to their fine late catalog. Everything from ‘Razor’s Edge’ on is must have AC/DC. Sure, I’m still a Bon Scott guy, but Brian Johnson made great music with AC/DC too. As Karma often proves painful for me, I also found out The Rock Chick was an ardent Oasis fan. She had the whole catalog. I didn’t realize they’d put out that much music. I remember one of our first parties together as a married couple. Her friend Rich kept asking if we had any Oasis. I was dumbfounded. Maybe I’d missed out on something.

I put aside my bias and listened to the music. And damn if I didn’t realize these guys were actually pretty good. The first two albums, ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ were Brit-rock gems. If you can put aside their personalities, they’re a talented group. I really dug the last couple of records they did, 2005’s ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ with it’s great first single, “Lyla” and 2008’s epic ‘Dig Out Your Soul.’ While they’d lost their superstardom in America, they were still cranking out great records. The momentum was palpable.

It was during this period The Rock Chick declared we were going to Denver to see Oasis at Red Rocks. Somehow, we ended up with front row tickets. I’m not a dancer. I’ve never been a dancer. When I dance, it looks like I’m running in place. I have the classic “white man’s overbite.” It’s embarrassing. I always half expect paramedics to show up and try to force wood between my teeth to prevent me from swallowing my tongue during the obvious seizure that’s occurring. So as I stood there, mere feet away from Oasis and being moved by the music, I air-guitared. I’m not proud of it, but it happens occasionally when I’m really into a song. And lo and behold, that rat bastard Liam Gallagher mocked me. He shimmied his hips and did a rather unflattering imitation of my air guitaring. To make it worse, he pointed at me, like I didn’t know he was mocking me. Sigh… I try to like these guys, and that’s the thanks I get.

Despite all that, the Rock Chick stuck with these guys after their rather ugly break up. I’ve heard a few of Noel’s High Flying Birds’ tunes and it’s pretty good. I even enjoyed that first Beady Eye record, tho not as much as the Rock Chick did. And yes, Rich still asks at every party if we have any Oasis, so I still hear quite a bit of them too. I guess the Beady Eye thing didn’t work out for Liam, so now we have his first ever solo record set for release in October.

I immediately announced this news to the Rock Chick and she downloaded the first two tracks from the record. I have to say, despite his starting the famous air guitar feud with me, Liam has a great album coming. The first track I heard was “Chinatown” and it’s one of those great, spacey, ethereal ballads that Oasis was famous for. It’s wistful and hopeful all in one song. I really dug it. It’s got a great melody that stick with you. I find myself humming the song after I’ve heard it.

The second track, “Wall of Glass,” is actually the opening track on the record, is a great rocker. It announces itself with a squalling harmonica which carries the tune. I really like the drumming on this song. It’s not a melt your face off tune, but it’s melodically rocking. While I’m probably on team Noel, Liam is just plainly the better singer. If the rest of the album is as consistent as these first two songs, this is going to eclipse Beady Eye by a mile and probably anything Noel’s put out. While I’d like to see the brothers work it out, for the Rock Chick and her friend Rich’s sake, ‘As You Were’ is going to be a great substitute.

Cheers! And yes, I still air guitar, Liam…