IT was September 2002. The summer had ended but there was still cause for many in Derry, Northern Ireland to celebrate. Oasis, the band who had defined a generation were due to play in Prehen playing fields that sunny September. Oasis, together with a number of bands that formed the “Britpop” phenominon burst onto the music scene like a breath of fresh air in the mid nineteen ninties amid a deluge of dance music. For many this was an event like no other; Derry having been starved of the big acts that came regularly to little brother Belfast.
There were rumours that notorious hell raiser and frontman Liam Gallagher would not show up, having walked off stage during previous shows. It was a tad ironic therefore that As It Was opens with brother Noel quitting the band just seven years later in the summer of 2009.
According to director Gavin Fitzgerald, in a recent interview given for Hotpress magazine Noel blocked any attempts to use recorded material from Oasis days and several parts had to be reshot, so if it is a nostalgiafest you’re expecting Oasis fans then forget about it.
Instead what you get is a look at the man behind the myth of Liam Gallagher, indeed you would have to question the wisdom of the elder brother Gallagher in not co-operating at all. What you get as a result is the story of a man abandoned by a brother he loved and trusted, leaving Liam to pick up the pieces and start again. What Fitzgerald shows the audience in many ways is ‘Liam Gallagher Unplugged’, Liam Gallagher with a new love interest, who also manages him; in every way you could imagine, Liam Gallagher the father, Liam Gallagher the son.
As the view you follow Liam along his path geographically, spiritually, geographically, spiritually, emotionally. As you do you see the rise of the superstar of old. The swagger, the attitude, but somehow with a (slightly) someone who has come to realise (in his own words) that he was a d**kh**d. As another band in the form of Beady Eye comes and goes Liam finds himself alone again Determined not to give up he gathers together a new group of musicians and takes to the recording studio.
Upon completion Liam takes a break in his mother’s native Co. Mayo where a chance snap of a camera phone shows the wonder waller playing guitar in a local pub. This is the catalyst which helps spur Gallagher on. Tour date after tour date sees the former Oasis frontman slowly but surely win back his popularity as well as fans who weren’t even born during the height of Oasis’ fame. It is during this period that the audience is surely left wondering if Gallagher’s new band can’t believe their luck in getting to play old Oasis standards, although again this is only speculation as all evidence of Gallagher’s previous incarnation are erased. From Rome to San Francisco and back again with headlining Glastonbury and the promise of a new album on the horizon, it seems that things are looking up for the former 90’s hell raiser.
Then as the saying goes, ‘events dear boy, events’. The tragedy of the Manchester arena takes place, leading to one of the most poignant moments of the whole documentary. Liam, as ever the proud Mancunian cancels everything else to take part in the Love Manchester gig. Perhaps this is the moment for a reuniting of the brothers, but only one brother turns up. This one moment, more than any other illustrates just how much being from Manchester and the people from there mean to Liam, and how much he means to them.
Interspersed with moments of Liam making his musical comeback are moments captured with his mother Peggy, his son’s from his previous two relationships, Lennon and Gene, as well as what Liam calls the inspiration behind his current success, a recognition perhaps that he is not quite a solo artist, his manager and current love interest Debbie Gwyther. She is everywhere that Liam is and seems to have a calming and reassuring influence. In fact if anyone is responsible for keeping it together on his comeback it’s Gwyther.
What the film shows is a volatile rock star become slowly but surely more mellow with an edge of ever present volatility kept for his brother. Noel hangs like a ghost over the entire piece, not only for reasons already stated but for the simple reason that, as stated, “Liam can’t do without Noel, but Noel can’t do without Liam”. Like some sort of Jackyl and Hyde pairing. As a piece of modern rock biography, As It Was is worth watching alone, but is it actually a good documentary. Well, definitely; maybe!