Live Forever (15)
The best part of a decade has passed since Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn were at loggerheads over the title of best British band – an age in the annals of modern rock but barely a breath when it comes to the likes of gods like The Who or The Rolling Stones.
Time moves quickly when it comes to contemporary music, with what was once hot rapidly turning cool (in the sense of passé) and idols slipping from vogue to desperately unfashionable. Certainly Oasis have passed their mad peak, with Noel Gallagher now aspiring to middle-aged statesman as opposed to the ambassador and driving force of Britpop he once was. Brother Liam, however, seems content to continue as the mumbling, knuckle-dragging brute of a frontman.
From the outset Live Forever, from the men who brought us the Oscar-winning One Day in September, attempts to emulate the seminal ‘60s films that combined historical documentary with sensational live performances. Think Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Sympathy for the Devil and Message for Love and the blueprint is there. Unfortunately Live Forever – the title taken from an Oasis track – lacks the gravitas, intelligence and sense of fun that its august predecessors had.
There is also the fact that all those classics of the past had the backdrop of Vietnam, the political and sociological chaos of the ‘60s or ‘70s, and genuinely dangerous performers in Hendrix, Daltrey and Townshend, and Jagger and Richards. All Live Forever has going for it are lacklustre bad boys of the calibre of the brothers Gallagher.
Director John Dower and producer John Battsek succeed in tracing and interviewing all of the key players of the period – the Gallaghers, Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, and Louise Wener being the most prominent – but none of them have anything particularly profound to say. Was it a musical revolution? Possibly. But it sure as hell wasn’t the ‘60s with its world-changing perspective based on the new generational perspective of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Too little time has passed for that to even be considered.
Dower and Battsek ladle on an overt left-wing politicality from the outset, espousing their belief that music can genuinely change the world, especially with the help (at least then) of New Labour. They pour scorn on the Tories.
It’s a tired point of view. Britpop was a newish direction, not a bonafide revolution. It relied on some fairly naïve folk – both musicians and fans – to buy into it while the spin doctors within New Labour manipulated all of them to grab a headline. The cultural change to be witnessed through Britpop was the birth of Ladism. And who needs that?
The one real piece of reportage that shines through the droning Mancunian tones of the Gallaghers et al is that none of the interviewees seem particularly happy with the journey they have completed. Damon Albarn, speaking in what looks to be the tap room of a dingy pub, squirms with embarrassment when he recalls his naivety at being part of a tabloid-manufactured spat between Blur and Oasis, while Liam Gallagher, the crown prince of the F-word, reveals himself to be the muttering moron we always suspected him of being.
Only Noel Gallagher seems to have bought into the whole trip, with his pompous remembrances of the Blur/Oasis rivalry providing one of the film’s funniest sequences. Jarvis Cocker, on the other hand, is revealed to be a funny, self-deprecating and witty survivor. I wonder who’ll still be around and recording in 20 years?
Perhaps the finest piece of crystal ball gazing comes via a couple of jokers who form part of an Oasis tribute band named Wonderwall. If Liam is borderline Neanderthal, these two have him resembling an Oxford don, albeit one with an extremely basic command of English.
The music, however, is ace.
Star rating: ***