Oasis was known for two things: great music and constant clashes between egotistical sibling bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher. Eventually, the fighting overtook the music, leading to Noel abruptly quitting right before they went onstage for a concert in Paris. That was the end of that. Neither of the brothers found anything resembling their Oasis success, although both continued making music. The documentary Liam Gallagher: As It Was follows the singer as he attempts to stage a comeback. This is required viewing for any Oasis fan, as it conveys the impact of that group's demise on its frontman.
We learn early on that Liam and Noel have neither seen nor spoken to one another in a decade. He seems perfectly fine with that, despite expressing a willingness to reunite. Directors Charlie Lightning and Gavin Fitzgerald provide a brief primer on the split, as well as Gallagher's post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, which didn't connect with the public in the same way, and his messy, high-profile divorce.
With those basics established, As It Was moves to the main focus, which is charting its central figure's efforts to recapture some of his past glory. Gallagher is characteristically unfiltered in discussing how much he misses being a big-time rock star. It no longer sounds like ego, though. Now older and seemingly a bit humbled, he comes off as someone who doesn't think he's equipped to do much except make music. Only by having people listen can he fulfill his entire reason for being.
Gallagher's girlfriend/manager, family members, and collaborators are interviewed, too, providing insights into his psychology during the years after Oasis ended. The directors take all that footage and splice it together with live performances, recording sessions, and glimpses into his personal life in a way that almost feels like a stream-of-consciousness outburst. That approach works surprisingly well, capturing the pulse of rock-and-roll, in addition to serving as a cinematic representation of the whirlwind qualities of fame. As It Was is probably best viewed by people already familiar with Oasis/Gallagher, because if you don't understand the role his ego/drug use/no-filter personality played in making him one of the quintessential '90s rock stars, you might be slightly confused at times.
As It Was captures a few moments where the old demons rear their heads again. Generally, though, it shows us Liam Gallagher in a new light – as a family man, a more relaxed person, and an individual with immense determination. We see him figuring out who he is as an artist outside of the band that gave him worldwide fame. Most rock docs find their subjects looking back at successful careers. This one follows a rocker in the middle of his career, transitioning from the first act to the second.
We don't get portraits of this nature very often, nor do we find musicians as hypnotically rebellious as Liam Gallagher. Consequently, As It Was is a compelling look at Liam's desire to reclaim mass popularity under some new, healthier terms -- while still leaving his trademark give-no-effs approach to life intact.
out of four
Liam Gallagher: As It Was is unrated, but contains strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.