Liam Gallagher was the first musical artist to perform at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in London.
The former Oasis frontman opened the show at Wembley convincingly with a two-song set, accompanied by the surviving members of the Foo Fighters.
Gallagher hit the stage after Dave Grohl and his bandmates walked on silently to a long ovation which had the group leader in tears – especially when the crowd began chanting “Taylor, Taylor.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he finally said, “Tonight we’ve gathered here to celebrate the life, the music and the love of our deaf friend, our bandmate, our brother, Taylor Hawkins. For those who knew him, you know that no one else could make you smile or laugh or dance or sing like he could. For those that admired him from afar, I’m sure you’ve all felt the same thing.
“So tonight we’ve gathered with family and his closest friends, his musical heroes and greatest inspirations to bring you a gigantic fucking night for a gigantic fucking person. So sing and dance and laugh and cry and fucking scream and make some fucking noise, so he can hear us right now. Because you know what, it’s going to be a long fuckin’ night, right? Are you ready… Are you fucking ready?”
With a simple namecheck Gallagher came onstage, by which time the YouTube live stream had already taken over $10,000 in contributions to the MusiCares Trust. “Taylor fucking Hawkins!” Gallagher said as the Foo Fighters broke into Oasis classic “Rock ’n’ Roll Star.” His trademark swagger seemed strangely at odds with the Foos’ no-nonsense stage presentation, but it was an assertive and powerful start to the show.
They followed with Oasis’ “Live Forever,” by which time Grohl already seemed like the emotional strain of the past months was escaping via his drumming. Guitarist Chris Shifflett’s playing in the style of Noel Gallagher offered another contrast to the Foos’ delivery. “Smashing it!” Gallagher shouted towards the end and threw his maracas into the crowd. “Have a good evening,” he said before hugging the band and leaving the stage, with the scene most definitely set for a powerful, emotional night.
Prior to the performance, Gallagher spoke glowingly of the departed drummer. “He was a top lad and amazing musician and it’s an absolute honor and privilege to open the show at Wembley,” the Oasis rocker declared. “I still cant quite believe this is actually fucking happening, him and his music will live forever.”
The singer’s relationship with Hawkins and the other members of the Foo Fighters stretches back decades. Hawkins, who served as Alanis Morissette’s drummer from 1995-97, would occasionally rub shoulders with the Gallagher brothers from Oasis on the road.
“It was such a fun time, 1995-96, it was amazing,” Hawkins recalled to NME in 2016. “I remember their bus would pull up, outside of Ohio or New Jersey or something like that, and watching those two guys smacking each other, not even out of the bus. We’re going, ‘Oh, my God, there they are, the real deal.’ They look amazing and they’re beating the crap out of each other, and I can’t even understand a word they are saying.”
In the same interview, Hawkins complimented Gallagher’s voice. “That guy is such a fucking good rock good singer,” he said. “When people talk about Freddie Mercury, they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s so outrageous’ – a lot of people just skip past the actual thing of what it is that made them great. I watched that Oasis documentary [Supersonic] the other day, and there’s this part where he just sings ‘Champagne Supernova‘ in one take in its entirety, and you just go, ‘Oh, fuck,’ you know, the reason we all liked him in the first place is because he’s a fucking good singer. He can fucking sing a rock ‘n’ roll song, dude.”
In 2018, Gallagher revealed to NME that the Foo Fighters were interested in working with him. “They keep texting me, man,” he said. “They wanted to do one tune, but I dunno – I’ll do it one day, but I’m too busy doing this at the moment. But I do like them – I think Foo Fighters have got good tunes. I think Dave Grohl‘s very talented, and so is the band.”
Following Hawkins’ death, Gallagher dedicated his performance of “Live Forever” at a Teenage Cancer Trust concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall to the late drummer. Hawkins’ name was also displayed on the drum kit. “This is for you, brother,” Gallagher said.
“Every time I see him, I get a big hug. I love him,” Hawkins said in 2016. “I think he’s one of the great frontmen over the last 20 years, no question.”
A second tribute concert for Hawkins is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on Sept. 27.
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