After years in lockdown, the masses needed a cultural shift that would act as a reset button for what had passed, and what was to come. We all had a tough time during the pandemic, and it made us re-evaluate just what was important in each of our lives. It also shone a telling light on how many of us need the communal experience to live. Not being able to attend gigs left a hole in a lot of people’s lives, so when news first broke that Liam Gallagher was going to play two consecutive nights at the historic Knebworth, this was more than just a concert announcement. It was a call to arms – one of the first proper gatherings of the new world, and it promised to deliver spectacle that the fans have craved for years. ‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ is a documentary that charts the lead-up to the concert and gives us a telling and heartfelt insight into Liam Gallagher the artist, and his legion of fans the world over.
Check out our interview with ‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ Director Toby L.
‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ manages to brilliantly capture the fundamental feelings we all experience in the lead up to a big, anticipated gig. More linear in its approach than the Mat Whitecross documentary ‘Supersonic’ or Jake Scott’s ‘Oasis: Knebworth 1996’ anniversary celebration, this documentary charts the week leading to the gig, with rare and in-depth access to Liam and his preparations for these mammoth shows. And they really are huge shows – something that you definitely get a true sense of, thanks to director Toby L’s excellently placed exchanges with Liam as he surveys the concert site being set-up in the days prior to the Queen’s Jubilee weekend.
Liam is very candid about his journey leading to Knebworth. The film’s best moments (for me) are when he’s looking through the details of the structure of the show, how it will work and describing why he feels he needs to do these shows. Liam’s quieter, more contemplative moments reveal a true musical icon who has a passion for what he does. Casual viewers know about Liam’s public persona, but us fans know that past the quick quips and the hilarious one-liners full of swag, is a proper rock and roll star who is a master of his craft, doing what he does best for an audience begging for his unmistakable presence and aura. It’s no secret that modern music today hasn’t got the characters it once did. Indeed, Oasis were the last truly global superstars of a generation. In today’s world, Liam is a shining light against the swathes of play-it-safe mediocrity rife in the music industry.
The fan-experience is a big part of the magic of the documentary. It must have been an exhaustive task going through all of the fan sent-in videos – something which was encouraged by the filmmakers through official channels in the weeks and months prior to the gig. ‘Oasis: Knebworth 1996’ did this too, but I felt more connected with these fan stories, perhaps because it was a ‘here-and-now’ thing, not a retrospective look back. It gives the footage more immediacy and works more effectively in this setting. Their stories are also very engaging, following a wide breadth of Liam’s fanbase from around the world as they make their way to the gig.
The concert itself is shot beautifully. A 20-camera set-up controlled by some of the most talented people in their field gives ‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ an epic feel from start to finish. Having seen the full filmed concert (which will be available on its own, outside of this documentary), you get transported right into the field along with the thousands of fans. The film also keeps some of its focus on key fan-contributors which was a really nice touch, giving the film a whole new narrative to enjoy alongside the gig itself. Its particularly poignant at the end when they catch up with some of them once it’s all over – its an emotional connection that we can all relate to and frames this film very well.
A lot has been made of the fact that Noel Gallagher didn’t allow any Oasis songs into the final cut of this documentary. (The Oasis songs do, however, appear in the full gig which will be released in due course). Having seen the film, I think ‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ is all the better for it – acting as a truer account of Liam’s solo journey. His music stands on its own merits, and frankly, he deserves to be the sole focus of this project. I will always want to hear him sing Oasis songs, but for the purposes of this film, it allows us to revel in Liam’s own creativity and talent. I just wished they released his ‘Down by the River’ lockdown gig from a few years back too – both shows perfectly demonstrate his multi-dimensional talent and identity.
‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ is the best music documentary of the year. A superb insight into the zenith of a rock n’ roll star and a heartfelt homage to both Liam and his fans. It perfectly captures the magic of the man and the soul of a generation who adore him and everything he stands for. Emotionally charged and utterly absorbing, this documentary has it all – the energy, the music, the magic – coupled with the sheer spectacle of such a crowd-pleasing show filmed to perfection. Rousing, raucous and full of swagger, ‘Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22’ is a captivating chronicle of a true rock icon.
Cast: Liam Gallagher Director: Toby L Duration: 97 mins Released by: Trafalgar Releasing Release date: 17th November 2022