Just six days ago, Beady Eye were co-headlining the third night of the 65,000-capacity Isle of Wight festival, already the group's fourth major gig abroad since it released its debut Different Gear, Still Speeding in March. Of course, Beady Eye earned those coveted gigs because its four members -- singer Liam Gallagher, guitarist Andy Bell, guitarist Gem Archer and drummer Chris Sharrock -- were once four-fifths of the Britpop sensations Oasis. And while the 1,100 who packed the Metro in Chicago on Saturday night (June 18) for the band's first-ever U.S. performance didn't exactly approach the throngs that doted on Liam's every gesture at Isle of Wight, they certainly matched their fervor.
Strolling on stage wearing a Union Jack frock that started at the neck and ended at the knees, Liam et al launched into "Four Letter Word," the first of a 16-song set. From the outset, if you blurred your eyes, you'd think you were watching Oasis. Still tilted upright, with his hands around his lower back, Liam bellows out every lyric with conviction and nasally amplification, like his son's namesake-on-eleven. He's added a blue scarf to his repertoire, which he mostly kept wrapped around his right fist, like he was bracing himself for a swift uppercut. Where's brother Noel when you need him?
Over an 15-year period from 1994 to 2009, Oasis were as famous for their infectious radio smashes like "Wonderwall," "Live Forever" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" as they were infamous for their constant infighting -- mostly between Liam and older brother and Oasis guitarist/singer Noel. The Gallaghers' proverbial front-stabbing culminated in a well-publicized dust-up backstage prior to a festival appearance in Paris on August 28, 2009 and, consequently, Noel's imminent departure from the band and the demise of Oasis.
The assumption was Noel would be first to cultivate the post-Oasis harvest. After all, it was Noel who wrote virtually every Oasis hit, the biggest of which were recorded before Bell, Archer, and Sharrock even joined the band. Instead, "Team Liam" is first to sow the seeds. Speaking of which, "Team Liam" would certainly be a less dreadful band name than the one they chose, we're assuming at gunpoint. Hell, BDI would have been better.
At first, Liam indicated Beady Eye wouldn't perform any Oasis songs live that were written by Noel (well, at least there's "Songbird") and then revised his plan to include no Oasis songs (wait, not even "Little James," about Liam's stepson?). But, true to Oasis lore, Beady Eye has barely altered its set list throughout its European tour, in most cases playing Different Gear in its entirety, plus a B-side or two, and cover tune (not a Beatles one!). That was the case Saturday night.
And all that friction detected between Liam and Noel on-stage because they never acknowledged one another? Well, it's the same deal between Liam and Archer, who stands in his stead to Liam's left. Like Oasis, Archer, Bell (switching from bass to guitar), Sharrock, along with touring bassist Jeff Wootton and keyboardist Matt Jones, all feel like sidemen. No matter who played alongside Liam and Noel in Oasis, everyone else just seemed sorta in-the-shadows (like Russell Hammond and those other guys in Stillwater).And even though Archer, Bell, and Sharrock are founding Beady Eye members, that sense remains.
It's compounded by the fact that, unlike many Oasis songs, there's little adventure to Beady Eye songs (meaning nothing in the ilk of "Champagne Supernova"), and thus not much room for the rest of the band to take center stage. But don't confuse blustery solos for chops; clearly, Beady Eye can move a room this size as well as Oasis ever could, all without resorting to pleas for noise or other cheerleading tricks of the trade. Many of the songs may not be arena worthy, but Beady Eye already is.
As we already know, Liam has an unhealthy obsession with the Beatles and, in particular, John Lennon (Liam has an 11-year-old son named Lennon), and it can't be a coincidence that the band name "Beady Eye" just happens to fall right before the Beatles alphabetically. Too many Oasis songs either borrowed heavily from the Fab Four or referenced Beatles songs. It'd be easy to credit (or discredit) Noel for the artistic larceny, since he wrote most of the songs, if not for the fact that Beady Eye does the same. Much of Beady Eye's derivativeness is of a fledgling Beatles (we're talking Hamburg-era). Songs like the B-side "Two of a Kind" and, duh, "Beatles and Stones" are simple, rote rockers that seem ideally fit for a small club like the Metro -- or the Cavern Club. Others like "For Anyone" pleasantly harkens even further back to Buddy Holly, while "Bring the Light" swings like a lost Jerry Lee Lewis gem, and one of those rare occasions where Sharrock and Jones are allowed to shine.
Other songs like "The Roller" and "Four Letter Word" have immediacy, but they seem a little too easy, and not long for the memory bank. And you'll have to excuse the non-descript "Standing on the Edge of the Noise" and "Millionaire," two songs that seem destined for set-list oblivion once Beady Eye has another album under its belt.
Where Beady Eye shows most promise is with songs with more sophisticated melodies, like the charming "The Beat Goes On," echo-y, psychedelic "The Morning Sun" and "Kill for a Dream," the most Oasis-sounding song performed. The latter, written by Bell, features weeping guitar fills eerily reminiscent of Noel, courtesy of Archer.
It'd have been so easy for Beady Eye to toss in an Oasis standard or, at the very least, a Beatles cover just to win over anyone who came just to see Liam, but that's just not their style. As per usual, Liam has already promised Beady Eye will be bigger than Oasis and judging by riveting performance and torrid reaction, you definitely maybe believe him.
Four Letter Word
Beatles and Stones
Two of a Kind
Wind Up Dream
Bring the Light
Standing on the Edge of the Noise
Kill for a Dream
Three Ring Circus
The Beat Goes On
Man of Misery
The Morning Sun
Sons of the Stage (World of Twist cover)