Rock and roll is never short on rags-to-riches stories. But what about those artists who make it to the top of the mountain only to slide back down knowing what they had seen up there? The new documentary, “Liam Gallagher: As It Was” follows the hard-won comeback story of the famous singer of one of the most popular rock bands of the past 30 years, Oasis.
The band broke up unceremoniously in 2009 after his brother (and chief songwriter of the band) Noel Gallagher had decided to leave the band after one of the siblings’ most heated blow-ups before a gig outside of Paris. As defiant, in the most entertaining way possible, as the two hard-headed and talented brothers are, the band has remained broken up since that fight despite the pleading of ravenous fans all around the world.
As the documentary shows, the time between then and now has been a difficult road for Liam. As his brother has been releasing music with his longtime project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Liams post-Oasis career went through a misstart. He and the rest of the band, sans-Noel, went on to form the short-lived Beady Eye which released two albums that only attracted a fraction of the audience their old band did. When the band announced their breakup after their second album, 2011’s “BE,” Liam was left alone without a purpose and away from the limelight that his old band controlled with so much swagger and panache at the height of their powers.
With fly-on-the-wall footage taken by filmmaker Charlie Lightening and with further direction from Gavin Fitzgerald, the film catches the once-cocky and somewhat arrogant singer at a moment of vulnerability. And while this could have been a sad portrayal of an artist on his steady decline, the filmmakers were able to catch lightning in a bottle with footage of the singer recording his breakthrough 2017 album “As You Were” and the wildly successful tour that surrounded its climb in the charts.
Lightening was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor before Liam’s incredible comeback. As a documentarian who has worked with Paul McCartney, Jamiroquai and the Brit-pop band Kasabian, Lightening has a way of getting candid with artists and immediately struck up a friendship with Liam ahead of the recording of “As You Were.”
“We just became really good friends,” says Lightening of the beginnings of this project. “It was second nature for me to be there and film everything. I didn’t know at the time that we would go on this journey.”
As he filmed more and more, he realized that Liam was on to something special. This became more clear as Liam started performing live with his solo band at festivals throughout Europe.
“It was just the atmosphere and I thought there was something special happening here and I’m privy to be capturing it all,” says Lightening. “People really didn’t properly listen to me until the album had done as well as it had done and then all of the sudden, film companies started being interested in this film.”
This new interest brought on Fitzgerald to help flesh the film out. An Oasis fan from an early age, Fitzgerald had made a name for himself with the Conor McGregor documentary “Notorious,” and found a similarity between the two in their persistent fighting spirits.
“I definitely saw weird parallels between him and Conor,” Fitzgerald explains. “He kind of gears himself up before going out to sing like a boxer, almost. Like he’s going out for a fight and not a concert. That’s very Liam. There’s not many like him. There’s not many who can control those crowds now, or has his stage presence or attitude.”
The confidence of the Gallagher brothers could either be an endless source of entertainment or turn off those not fans of their music during their heyday. But given the nature of the film as a long-form character exploration of someone who had a history of antagonistic relationships with the press, what was Fitzgerald’s approach to getting candid responses from Gallagher?
“Oasis in the ’90s took the media by storm,” Fitzgerald says. “Them getting into more and more trouble just created more and more tension. They’re masters of staying in the headlines. They learned that by being themselves, they’d find their own unique voice. Liam still has that. He calls everyone else ‘vanilla.’ I knew he couldn’t be like that all the time. There is an element of that where he’s at an award show or around paparazzi, he turns it up to 90. It’s all within him, but there’s also a human side to him. You’re just trying to get to that, trying to catch him with his guard down. It was quite difficult to be honest. He’s quite aware of the camera. I hope we managed to cut through some of it. I think he see a human side of him, because everyone is human. He’s a nice guy and he’s a lot more chill now at 40.”
You can catch the film “Liam Gallagher: As It Was” in select theaters Sept. 13 and VOD on Oct. 8. Gallagher’s new album, “Why Me? Why Not.”, will be released on Sept. 20.