To Die By Your Side

Beady Eye – Live at Wolverhampton Civic Hall 24/04/2011

May 6th, 2011

I kind of feel like this post should come with a disclaimer. An apology. Possibly even a couple of excuses. Not because it’s over a week overdue but because it’s about Beady Eye, a band with the strangest kind of stigma attached to them. Admit I went to see them and I can sense people judge me instantly. Re-adjust their opinions of me and my music taste. You’ve probably just done it yourself. At the very least, you’re probably a little surprised. Maybe I should start attending some kind of group therapy class. I could easily provide at least 2 good excuses for being there but I don’t want to. Hi, my name’s Richard, I saw Beady Eye live and I really enjoyed it.

Of course, I’m exaggerating slightly but still, you say the name Beady Eye and instantly you divide people into three groups. Those who detest Liam Gallagher, those who love him and those who clearly want to be him. At worst the former assume the latter are all knuckle dragging, terrace dwelling hooligans with little grasp of art or culture. At best, they accuse them of being stuck in a mid 90s nightmare. Aren’t cliches great? Not that on the night’s evidence, they’re entirely incorrect. The audience is almost entirely ageing Britpoppers while the amount of actual Liam wannabes swaggering their monkey walk around the hall was astounding. As for the endless chants of ‘Lee-yum, Lee-yum’, well they didn’t exactly do much to dispel the match day mentality. The thing is though, as negative as all that may sound, it’s been a long time since I’ve sensed the kind of buzz of excitement and anticipation at a gig as the build up to Beady Eye coming on stage had. While that may have been as much about seeing Liam Gallagher in such a comparatively small venue as actually being about the music, there’s no denying the sense that for everyone in the room, this was an event. More than that though, it was an event that surpassed most expectations.

By the time of their demise, Oasis had become a shorthand for everything boring and predictable about modern British indie. A tad unfair I think but not wholly incorrect. Reading reviews of the album, the repeated impression was that this band were nothing more than a lesser Oasis. Shorn of the talented one and struggling to produced anything above a sub-standard version of their previous incarnation. It’s an easy judgement to make and I’ll admit, the album isn’t exactly breaking new ground or showcasing any wild new directions. Nor does it claim to. It’s a Ronseal album and it does what it says on the tin. People accused Oasis of opening the floodgates to all sorts of uncreative, generic, meat and potatoes guitar bands that were simply trying to emulate the Gallagher brothers. They had 3 chords, Northern swagger and bolshy bravado but there were just weak copies. They all lacked the one thing that set Oasis apart and for a short while captured the country’s imagination and made music exciting again. What all those bands lacked was Liam Gallagher. While Noel had the songs, the wit and the brains, Liam had the spirit of rock and roll running through his veins. Not just some rubbish cliche. Before he became bogged down with fame and celebrity, Liam had a real fire in his belly. It was what made him such an enigmatic performer. Not many people can stand perfectly still on stage and command the attention and adoration that he did. Sure he lost it and sure, it was replaced by arrogance and laziness but there’s no denying it. He had it in 1994 when I saw Oasis play the Wolverhampton Civic Hall and the astounding thing is, 17 years later, back on the same stage he seems to have regained it.

Watching him on stage in 2011, belting out Beady Eye’s songs, he seems reborn. Revitalised. Re-energised. Sure, his voice is raspy, battered by years of abuse and lacking the subtly that quickly evaporated, but everything about his performance dispels the assumption that he’s just going through the motions. He puts his all into each song and seems to be really enjoying himself. Unlike the Liam I’d seen playing live on TV over the years, he’s feeding off the audience’s energy as though it’s charging him up. Aside from bizarrely clinging onto a nasty brown towel as though it’s some kind of security blanket, he thanks the crowd between songs, indulges in banter that seems off the cuff and by the end of the gig has jumped off the stage and started embracing people in the crowd. He seems to have lightened up, relaxed and allowed himself to drop his persona. For someone who’s spent the last decade coming across like the stage was the last place he wanted to be, Liam breaks all expectations and stamps his authority back on the place he once seemed born to be. The fire seems to be burning once again and that somehow seems to raise the music above the one dimensional rock n roll simplicity of the album, to something that, played live, is rather exhilarating.

Without Noel’s musicianship and musical embellishing, the band have honed their sound down to the bare minimum. There’s little room for flair or exuberance. It’s simple but it’s hugely effective. They plough through the songs with a real spirit of rock n roll abandon. There’s no place for extended guitar solos. For the most part these are lean songs, stripped of any flab and rattled off one after another at a pace that keeps the atmosphere buzzing. There’s are lulls when the slower, wishy washy sub psychedelic songs arrive but they’re quickly forgotten as another rocker soon arrives. They may be songs that lack any real sonic adventure but they manage to tap deep into the base of rock and do it so well that you can’t help but enjoy it.

On record, Beady Eye may never record a classic album, break any new ground or escape the shadow of Oasis but if they keep putting on shows like this, they’ll easily survive as a thrilling live band. The smart money may have been put on Noel but on the evidence of this performance, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down. It’s just a shame he couldn’t have thrown that bloody towel down as well.

Beady Eye – millionaire (live session version) : original version available on ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’

Filed Under Live Review, Music

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