An hour before Liam Gallagher was to join his band Oasis on stage at London’s Royal Festival Hall for an MTV Unplugged performance, it was decided the singer would be unable to perform due to a “sore throat.” At the time Oasis was one of the biggest music acts on the planet, and among the most dysfunctional, with brothers Liam and Noel proving to be the biggest source of friction. While Liam’s voice may have, in fact, been shot that evening—as it has the few instances he’d showed up for rehearsal in the weeks prior to the show—that, according to Noel, was only part of the problem. “About an hour before we were due to go on he turned up absolutely shitfaced,” Noel recalled. Even still, they let Liam sing a couple songs to test his pipes and the result, according to Noel, was “fucking dreadful.”
So instead of bagging the performance, they let Noel—who’d sang all the songs in rehearsal anyway—front Oasis. Noel diplomatically told the crowd a “sore throat” was to blame for Liam’s absence, though it was hard fathom then why he was boozing and smoking while jeering his bandmates from the nosebleeds during the show.
Despite Liam’s absence—and MTV’s reluctance to release it commercially—the show was one of MTV Unplugged’s all-time best. Throughout the 12-song set, Noel added a level of depth and elegance to songs like “Live Forever,” “Cast No Shadow” and, of course, “Wonderwall” not yet heard. It was also one of our first chances to appreciate Noel’s amazing wit. At one point he introduced a song by saying, “I’d like to carry on with one I wrote” (he wrote them all), and prior to telling the crowd there was only one song left, someone shouted “Wonderwall” and he immediately responded, “you clever bastard.” (Below is the entire performance of Oasis’s MTV Unplugged)
The evening’s events would be a harbinger of more erratic behavior from Liam, including not a week later when he decided he’d rather house hunt with his then wife Patty Kensit than take part in the band’s 13-day U.S. tour. Presumably the press’s skewering of Liam’s selfish decision forced an about face, and he was on stage with Oasis in Chicago four days after Oasis unplugged without him.