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Wasserman Music duo on Liam Gallagher at Knebworth

James Hanley speaks with Wasserman Music’s Adele Slater and Alex Hardee about Liam Gallagher’s mammoth Knebworth shows this weekend and the state of rock music…

As the old saying goes, the best ideas are often the simplest. So when a 25th anniversary documentary on Oasis’ legendary 125,000-cap Knebworth concerts debuted on the big screen in September, there was no better time to announce frontman Liam Gallagher’s return to the site of his biggest triumph.

Upon a wave of nostalgia and renewed excitement, the rock’n’roll star sold out two nights at the fabled Hertfordshire venue from 3-4 June, promoted by Festival Republic, Live Nation and SJM Concerts. Kasabian head a strong support bill also featuring Paolo Nutini, Michael Kiwanuka, Amyl and the Sniffers, Fat White Family, Pastel and Goat Girl.

Days later, the singer, whose third solo album C’mon You Know was released last week, confirmed his maiden solo UK stadium tour, which stopped at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium on Wednesday (1 June) and heads to Hampden Park in Glasgow later this month, and also takes in Belsonic in Belfast’s Ormeau Park. European dates include festival slots at Rock in Rio Lisbon, Syd For Solen in Denmark, France’s Beauregard Festival and Lucca Summer Festival in Italy.

An Australia/New Zealand leg is lined up for late July, with a headline show at Alexandra Head at Cardiff Bay set for 15 September and a string of South American concerts planned for November.

Last summer, Gallagher played a free show for NHS workers at The O2 in London and completed a run of UK headline appearances at festivals including Reading & Leeds, TRNSMT and Isle of Wight.

“I think the idea might have been Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours!”

Since his 2017 comeback, the Britpop icon has been represented on the live scene by Paradigm’s Alex Hardee and Adele Slater. Here, the agents reveal all to IQ about the genesis of the Knebworth plan, Gallagher’s international ambitions and share their hopes and fears on rock music and the resurgence of the touring sector. As you were…

IQ: When was the idea for next year’s Knebworth shows first formulated?
AH: I think that the idea might have been [Live Nation UK & Ireland chair] Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours! Whoever’s it was, it’s not going to go up there with Einstein’s theory of relativity, because it’s not the most complicated thing to think, ‘Let’s do Knebworth shows 25 years after they actually happened, with a documentary coming.’ It’s a good idea, but an obvious one. But our jobs are quite simple compared to doctors and nurses.

AS: With the timing of the anniversary of the film, it kind of just made sense.

AH: I tell you what, the idea was simple and we knew it would capture the imagination and be a hot event, but it took us by surprise that we could do two [nights]. We always knew we’d do one, and we had a second day on hold. At the outset, we thought that the second show was an outside chance. But definitely by the announcement date – and the reaction online – we got ready, very quickly, to go for the second show.

What capacity are the Knebworth gigs?
AH: They’re 80,000 but we’re hoping that people think they’re 125,000 like the original gigs.

Did you have the option of scaling all the way up to 125k?
AH: Well, I wasn’t at the original gig, but lots of people involved were.

AS: I was.

AH: And even though, in hindsight, people say it was the greatest gig they’ve ever been to, there were massive queues for toilets and it’s a hard site to get into.

AS: The structure didn’t take it very well, it was absolute chaos. The road network around Knebworth is literally tiny little country roads, so to get another 45,000 people in would be a nightmare.

AH: Also, we’re very mindful now that 25 years ago, you didn’t have social media. If you don’t get things right nowadays, it’s everywhere straightaway. So we’re mindful that we want to give a good customer experience. Twenty-five years ago, different things were acceptable.

“To do the same as what he did in Oasis… was a massive statement”

What persuaded you decide to announce the Knebworth shows prior to the other stadium dates?
AH: We discussed it back and forth, but we just thought that Knebworth was the important thing to blow out and we just wanted to concentrate on that. We didn’t want to dilute the announcement of Knebworth, we wanted to blow that out and then launch the other stadiums off the back of that. The other stadiums are going to sell out, but we wanted the statement of selling out two Knebworths [first]. To do the same as what he did in Oasis, albeit with not as many tickets because of the infrastructure problems we talked through previously, was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry. We did a mechanism afterwards so that people in Manchester and Glasgow could change their tickets around if they wanted to and there was a bit of uptake on that. Not much, though, because I think most people wanted to go to Knebworth.

How do you reflect on his special show for NHS workers at The O2 in 2021?
AS: It was just a moment in time that kind of captured everyone coming back to the live world. It was one of the first shows back into the arena as well, so it was quite weird, but it was really good for everyone to get together.

What was the wider strategy behind Liam’s UK festival headline run last summer?
AH: They were booked two years ago, so they were flipped [from 2020 to 2021]. The Knebworth announcement was initially going to be off off the back of playing Reading & Leeds and TRNSMT. We wanted to keep it as close to those gigs and the documentary and as possible because that’s when we knew the maximum heat would be. But the record label wanted to wait until [Gallagher’s forthcoming third solo LP] was ready, so we came to a compromise and got a pre-order mechanism in place without the finished artwork, which was the right decision and we sold a lot of album pre-orders. Selling these gigs is all about the timing, as you could see in the summer, when the roadmap for coming out of Covid was announced. If you announced at that point, you were selling 30-40% [more tickets], it was a frenzy. And we knew that the right time to announce these shows was before everyone else went up with their shows and also after the documentary had just landed. That got everyone excited and then we announced Knebworth – that was the skill in getting that show sold out.

“We don’t actually know what he can do bigger than two Knebworths”

And what’s the audience demographic?
AH: It’s from 16 to 60, isn’t it?

AS: If you look at the Reading & Leeds crowd, that was all kids.

Last question on Liam, what do his prospects look like outside of the UK?
AS: We’ve flipped a load of stuff from other summers that are happening June time [next year].

AH: In some markets now, he’s bigger than Oasis were. He’s gone from club level to arena level now in most markets, and from headliner at secondary festivals to second on the bill at major festivals. And it’s growing – Knebworth’s had an effect. We don’t actually know what we can do bigger than two Knebworths next, apart from reforming Oasis. That’s the brain-teaser, but we can build his international career. Yes, he sings Oasis songs but he’s producing new music that’s relevant and he’s charting and reacting well for a rock act.

Where does rock music currently stand in the grand scheme of things?
AH: What do they say? Rock music is not dead, it just smells funny. It’’s not going to dominate the charts anymore, but it can still dominate live. Heavy metal’s never dominated the charts but Iron Maiden are consistently selling live tickets. People want to see it, it’s just there’s not enough people listening to it on streaming to make it in the charts. Someone’s got to work out how to make the charts relevant again, because four-year-olds are influencing them by shouting at their Alexas at the moment.

AS: There is always going to be an appetite for rock music and guitar bands, that’s never going to go away I don’t think, it’s just swings and roundabouts to see these trends.

A version of this article first appeared in IQ 106

 


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IQ 106 out now: Navigating the new industry landscape

IQ 106, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

The December 2021 edition is spearheaded by an exclusive preview of next year’s highly anticipated International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Elsewhere, IQ news editor James Hanley speaks to Paradigm Agency’s Alex Hardee and Adele Slater about Liam Gallagher’s sold-out Knebworth shows.

This issue also sees IQ editor Gordon Masson quiz venue management from around the world about their plans for arenas to reopen and stay open.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Suzanne Hunt details how Squeeze became one of the first UK acts to resume touring in the United States, lawyer Gregor Pryor notes the challenges that the metaverse could pose for the music industry, and Debbie Taylor shares her experience of Guns N’ Roses’ Covid-compliant US tour.

And, in this month’s Your Shout, live industry executives pick their three ideal guests for a dinner party.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

IQ subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.

 


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Paradigm on Liam Gallagher’s Knebworth return

Paradigm agents Alex Hardee and Adele Slater have given IQ the lowdown on Liam Gallagher’s momentous return to the UK’s Knebworth Park.

The former Oasis frontman will play two sold-out nights at the Stevenage site from 3-4 June next year, promoted by Festival Republic, Live Nation and SJM Concerts.

The concerts, which feature a support bill headed by Kasabian, were announced on the back of a new documentary marking 25 years since Oasis’ era-defining gigs at the legendary rock venue.

“I think that the idea might have been [Live Nation UK & Ireland chair] Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours,” laughs Hardee. “It’s a good idea, but an obvious one.”

“With the timing of the anniversary of the film, it kind of just made sense,” adds Slater, who attended the original 1996 event.

However, Hardee reveals that demand for tickets for the 2022 sequel exceeded even his own lofty expectations.

At the outset, we thought the second show was an outside chance

“We knew it would capture the imagination and it would be a hot event, but it took us by surprise that we could do two [nights],” he tells IQ. “We always knew we’d do one, and we had a second day on hold. At the outset, we thought that the second show was an outside chance. But definitely by the announcement date – and the reaction online – we got ready, very quickly, to go for the second show.

“Selling these gigs is all about the timing, and we knew that the right time to announce these shows was before everyone else went up with their shows and also after the documentary had just landed. That got everyone excited and then we announced Knebworth – that was the skill in getting that show sold out.”

While Oasis famously sold 250,000 tickets across their two 1996 shows, each of Gallagher’s solo dates will be capped at 80,000 for logistical reasons.

“The road network around Knebworth is literally tiny little country roads, so to get another 45,000 people in would be a nightmare,” advises Slater. 

“Even though, in hindsight, people say [the original] was the greatest gig they’ve ever been to, there were massive queues for toilets and it’s a hard site to get into,” explains Hardee. “Also, we’re very mindful now that 25 years ago, you didn’t have social media. If you don’t get things right nowadays, it’s everywhere straightaway. So we’re mindful that we want to give a good customer experience. Twenty-five years ago, different things were acceptable.”

Gallagher, who played a “life-affirming” show for NHS workers at The O2 in London in August, performed a run of UK headline dates over the summer at festivals including Reading & Leeds, TRNSMT and Isle of Wight.

It was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry

Boosted by the Knebworth sellouts, the singer went on to announce his inaugural stadium solo headline shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium (1 June) and Hampden Park in Glasgow (26 June). He will also perform at Belsonic in Belfast’s Ormeau Park on 24 June.

“We didn’t want to dilute the announcement of Knebworth, we wanted to blow that out and then launch the other stadiums off the back of that,” says Hardee. “The other stadiums are going to sell out, but we wanted the statement of selling out two Knebworths [first]. It was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry. 

“We did a mechanism afterwards so that people in Manchester and Glasgow could change their tickets around if they wanted to and there was a bit of uptake on that. Not much, though, because I think most people wanted to go to Knebworth.”

Hardee and Slater have represented Gallagher on the live scene since his 2017 comeback, which was capped by headline outdoor concerts at London’s Finsbury Park (cap. 40,000) and Emirates Old Trafford (50,000) the following year. The frontman has appearances confirmed for Rock in Rio Lisbon, Syd For Solen in Denmark and France’s Beauregard Festival next summer and is making waves internationally.

“In some markets now, he’s bigger than Oasis were,” suggests Hardee. “He’s gone from club level to arena level now in most markets, and from headliner at secondary festivals to second on the bill at major festivals. And it’s growing – Knebworth’s had an effect.

“We don’t actually know what we can do bigger than two Knebworths next, apart from reforming Oasis. That’s the brain-teaser, but we can build his international career.”

A full interview with Alex Hardee and Adele Slater will appear in the next edition of IQ magazine at the end of this month. Click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month.

 


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Britpop to return to Knebworth with Cool Britannia

Knebworth House will this summer host a large-scale rock festival for first time since 2014 with Cool Britannia, a new three-day Britpop-centred event promoted by David Heartfield’s Heartfield Entertainment.

Twenty-two years after 250,000 people descended on Knebworth for Britpop’s high watermark – Oasis, with support from the Charlatans, Cast, the Prodigy, Kula Shaker, Manic Street Preachers and the Chemical Brothers – a who’s who of Britpop greats, including Happy Mondays, Ocean Colour Scene, the Lightning Seeds, New Order’s Peter Hook, Dodgy and a returning Cast, will help transform ‘Britain’s biggest venue’ into a ’90s time capsule in the last weekend of August.

The 250-acre Knebworth Park last hosted a major rock show in 2014, when Iron Maiden and Metallica headlined the final UK edition of Kilimanjaro Live’s Sonisphere.

“This will surely be a great addition to our 44-year history of hosting some truly memorable events”

Martha Lytton Cobbold, managing director of Knebworth owner Lytton Enterprises, tells local paper the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We are delighted to welcome Cool Britannia to Knebworth Park. With such a fantastic line-up of era-defining acts, this will surely be a great addition to our 44-year history of hosting some truly memorable events.

“We are looking forward to working with the Heartfield Entertainment team over the coming months to bring you a spectacular fun-filled weekend of music.”

Heartfield’s Impresario Festivals previously promoted South West Four, Field Day, Boardmasters and ’80s festival Rewind, which were acquired by Global in October 2016.

Tickets for Cool Britannia go on sale on 2 February. A full line-up is pictured below:

Cool Britannia 2018 line-up

 


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