It seemed the two English men co-headlining tonight had brought the Manchester weather to California on the second night of their US tour. A grey overcast sky covered the Greek Theatre and the threat of rain was ever present. Richard Ashcroft took to the stage a little later than advertised. A sound maneuver that allowed the packed bars to filter into the auditorium without missing a note.
Looking sleek in a white suit and shades, the former Verve front man’s physical appearance seems to have changed little since the 90’s and he kicked off this solo acoustic set with On Your Own from the Verve’s 1995 album A Northern Soul. One thing that definitely hasn’t changed is the quality of Ashcroft’s voice. The Greek is a big stage for one man to fill but he did it with aplomb. He moved into another Verve favorite Lucky Man and didn’t have to give the crowd much encouragement to sing along.
You Don’t Own Me, a barnstormer from his last solo album was next up and afterwards Ashcroft took time to tell the crowd of his distain for US Customs officials. It seems a body search of his 3-year-old son had taken place when arriving in the country a few days prior and it obviously was still needling him. However, he returned to the music with another crowd favorite Sonnet from The Verve’s Urban Hymns album. This time needing no encouragement whatsoever, the crowd joined him in full voice.
He returned to his early solo work with Paradise a song he explained as being very personal to him as he played at his Grandmother Lillian’s funeral. The Drugs Don’t Work followed. Another immensely personal song for him, written about watching his father’s battle with cancer. He was then joined on stage by Guitarist Steve Wyreman for Music Is Power from his third solo release, before treating us to fantastic stripped down cover of Prince’s Red Corvette. He seemed to get into an altercation with a member of the crowd before ending the set with The Verve’s smash Bitter Sweet Symphony. Again, the whole crowd arms raised in unison, heads tilted back, accompanying him at the top of their lungs.
The set was mainly staples from The Verve’s back catalogue interspersed a few of his solo songs. However, this solo performance was a world away from a fading artist trotting out old crowd favorites. This was a solid, assured performance by one of England’s underrated songwriter’s, who looked more comfortable up there on his own than I have ever seen him while being backed up with a band.
The Music started long before Liam Gallagher took to the stage. A sneaky little trick to ensure everyone jamming the Theatre’s bars poured into the auditorium before the performance had started. Sure enough, everyone was present before he took to the stage. The rain that had been threatening to fall all evening finally broke as Liam walked out and launched into Rock n’ Roll Star. The rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the bouncing crowd that lapped up the Oasis classic. The tempo was kept up with Morning Glory before launching into Greedy Soul and Wall of Glass from his solo album As You Were.
But it was during his third track from the album Bold when things started to take a turn for the worst. He struggled to hit a note and by the angry gesticulating to stage right, all was not well with the sound and I doubt he could hear himself in the monitors. He plowed on with another from his solo album For What It’s Worth but the sound issues continued and Gallagher was getting visibly more annoyed. I then began to feel sorry for Liam. What had been a lively crowd were now more subdued, it was obvious the technical issues were getting to him, he looked tired and almost like he wished he was somewhere else. The Oasis number Some Might Say put some life back into the crowd and the sound engineer got things back on track for Do You Know What I Mean? Liam was visibly a little happier and vocally back to hitting the right notes. He returned to As You Were for the tracks Come Back to Me and You Better Run before the finishing Oasis trifecta of Cigarettes and Alcohol, Supersonic and closing on Live Forever.
If this was two 90’s heavyweights on tour, it was Liam who looked a little like a weary Prizefighter. He was clearly unhappy at the sound and this month marks a full year touring the As You Were album so hardly surprising he was looking run down. This show didn’t have the energy of his last LA appearance at The Wiltern back in November. But I firmly believe the indoor venue suits his performance better. One thing we know about Liam Gallagher is you can never count him out. He’s got a couple of days off before playing Toronto and I fully expect him to be ripping the roof off places as this tour continues.