First Night: Japan Disaster Benefit, Brixton Academy, London

Liam shines with his A-list friends at Japan aid gig
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The Independent Culture

Boasting a star-studded line-up more suited to the Glastonbury main stage than London's O2 Brixton Academy, Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller and Primal Scream were among the cream of British rock acts that performed a one-off gig last night in aid of relief efforts for victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Organised by Liam Gallagher, who headlined the show with his new band Beady Eye, the five-hour Japan Benefit Gig included sets from Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics, Richard Ashcroft and The Coral, all of whom have fan bases in Japan.

The ex-Oasis frontman's "bad boy" image in the Nineties may not make him the likeliest candidate to stage a Bob Geldof-esque fundraiser, but he says he was was so moved by images of the Japanese disaster that he was inspired to raise money for the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

Speaking before the gig, Gallagher emphasised the fundraiser was not only staged with his Japanese fans in mind. "Whenever that kind of stuff happens, it's not good, is it?" he said. "It's not just because we're popular in Japan. As a human, you just think it's heavy. We've always had close ties with Japan and great affection for our fans out there. Our hope is that this benefit concert can help the people of Japan."

Ambitions to promote new material were put aside as all bands played crowd-pleasers and old favourites to the capacity 5,000 crowd. Paul Weller's set featured several Jam songs, with old favourites such as "Eton Rifles" mixed with the title track of his latest album, Wake Up The Nation.

Several of the bands played Beatles covers as those songs still boast massive appeal in Japan. Wirral-based folk rockers, The Coral, who kicked off the show, found a particularly warm reception for their cover of "Ticket to Ride". Surprisingly, the only sombre moment came during singer-songwriter Richard Ashcroft's set as he performed The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony".

Japan was mentioned relatively infrequently and none of the harrowing images from Japan that prompted Gallagher to gather his bands of friends together were shown. This gave the gig a heightened sense of detachment from the harsh realities facing young people in Japan now.

Since the earthquake and tsunami struck on 11 March, the Japanese Red Cross has mobilised 85 teams made up of at least 700 doctors, nurses and support staff. The £150,000 raised from the £40 ticket price last night will go towards providing aid and healthcare for those affected by the disaster.

And for Gallagher, it seemed his actions were intended to speak louder than the words. The feeling of goodwill in the crowd was noticeable, but that didn't stop grumblings among some fans that Gallagher's band Beady Eye are not yet heavyweight enough to warrant a headline slot among an A-list of British rockers.

These grumblings were soon quashed in characteristic Gallagher style, as numbers such as "Bring the Light" and "Kill for a Dream" showed the band's mettle. Thronging guitar riffs and bashing drums underlined Gallagher's infamous drawl, much to the delight of the crowd, who had clearly saved their biggest cheers for the last act.