Former Oasis singer says ‘normal business has resumed’ in emotional concert in aid of We Love Manchester emergency fund
Liam Gallagher sings on stage at Manchester’s O2 Ritz. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA
Liam Gallagher declared “normal business has resumed” as he thrilled fans in Manchester at his first solo gig, a week after the city was rocked by a suicide bombing.
The former Oasis frontman made the declaration after arriving on stage to beer-soaked delirium and launching into a raucous version of the Oasis hit Rock’n’Roll Star.
The 44-year-old singer then belted out (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? to the 1,400 capacity crowd at Manchester’s O2 Ritz.
All the proceeds from the concert – the first on Gallagher’s four-date tour – will be donated to the families of the victims of the atrocity at Manchester Arena eight days before.
Chants of “Manchester la la la!” broke out regularly at the concert as Gallagher played hits from his debut solo album As You Were, due for release in October, alongside Oasis classics. Among the audience was Mancunian former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton.
The new solo material found a receptive audience, but it was 20-odd-year-old Oasis classics – including Slide Away, Rock’n’Roll Star and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – that brought the biggest singalongs.
Fans chanted “Stand up for the 22” throughout the encore before Gallagher returned to the stage to perform an a capella version of Live Forever.
After he exited the stage, the crowd chanted “You can shove your fucking Isis up your arse,” before hundreds joined in a rendition of 1996 hit Don’t Look Back in Anger.
It was a night that will be remembered as Gallagher’s first solo concert and, more importantly, a sign of a bruised city returning to its swaggering best. It will not, however, be remembered for an Oasis reunion that had been rumoured before the gig.
The timing of the concert – and the renewed resonance of Don’t Look Back in Anger – fuelled speculation that Liam and Noel Gallagher might put aside their sibling rivalry and share a stage for the first time in eight years.
The closest fans got to a reformation was when ex-Oasis guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs joined Gallagher on stage for a rare live performance of Be Here Now, the title track of the band’s 1997 album.
Noel’s absence did not leave fans disappointed, however. “It’s been a really tough week for Manchester and all we wanted was for our Mancunian brothers and sisters to rally together and bring our city back to where it was before the tragedy,” said Leah Brotherton, 36.
“Liam Gallagher is one of our favourite sons and he’s come home tonight and he’s lifted the city of Manchester.
“I’m sure it’s gonna carry on and spread across Manchester – it’s a good feeling and I couldn’t be prouder tonight to be a Mancunian.”
Ken Gardiner, 54, described the gig as” absolutely brilliant”. He added: “I kind of thought when he said Liam and friends, there would be a few more friends. He could have probably gone out on a bigger anthem – it was just him solo – but, hey, everything he did was brilliant. His voice is back.
“We all hoped Noel would turn up – especially with Liam wishing him happy birthday [Noel had turned 50 the day before] – but it was still good. He did everything he needed to do.”
Before the gig started, a long line of excited fans had been queuing for the best spot.
Charlie Karisa, 18, had arrived eight hours before the doors opened with his friend Tom Ebbrell, 19. Both had been hoping for a glimpse of the singer.
The pair, from Birkenhead, Merseyside were not even born when the band’s debut album Definitely Maybe was released in 1994. Ebbrell said it was a “stroke of luck” that they managed to bag tickets, which had sold out in seconds.
Charlie Karisa, left, and Tom Ebbrell outside the Ritz. Photograph: Josh Halliday for the Guardian
Further up the queue, Nathan Roche, 19, had sold his mother’s ticket to a stranger because she was scared about another attack following the bombing last week.
“She said I could be here for her,” he said. “I’m not scared. You let them win if you’re scared. You’ve got to keep going or Manchester will end up with empty shops, businesses will close down.”
Roche said he had been in Manchester city centre only minutes before the attack on 22 May and that the experience had scarred him.
“It’s got to me a bit. I was down for a good few days and I still am. It’s deep. I think it’s top the way everyone’s pulled together. Mancunian spirit I suppose.”