I don’t think I would ever rank Oasis as one of my top ten favourite bands of all-time; I own a couple of their albums, I’m well-versed in the radio hits and I’ve been following the latest antics of the brothers Gallagher for years, yet I’d hesitate to classify them as a band who’s had a major impact on my life. Yet tonight, I saw them live for the third time–and despite all I’ve just said, I left the joint rockin’. Was it the best concert I’ve ever seen? No, not at all; in fact, I would hesitate to call it the best Oasis show I’ve ever seen. But did I like it? The answer is an emphatic “yes”, and here’s why: because Oasis, regardless of what you might think of them, are as rawk as they come in the year 2005. Rock n’ roll has lost a lot of its swagger in the last few years; thank goodness we still have Liam and Noel to remind us that rock, at its core, is not an intellectual exercise.
I should also mention that Oasis is Bri’s “favourite” band (in quotation marks because she changes her favourite band about as often as John Gibbons shuffles his line-up), but she’d never seen them before tonight. So that made this an especially meaningful concert for her, which made it all the more meaningful for me, as well. On the GO Train to the venue, we were somehow blessed with the good fortune of finding seats directly across from a couple dudes and their dude girlfriends; the conversation we overheard was utterly hysterical for its sheer stupidity, and prompted Bri to exclaim, upon exiting the train, “Thank God you’re not like that.” What’s not to love about a good dude encounter? Part of me wants to attend a Dave Matthews Band concert just so I can bask in the reflected glory of fifteen thousand shell necklaces. The dude is an omnipresent spectator at Oasis concerts; this would prove to be a source of must amusement when the band took the stage (more later).
The Molson Amphitheatre–where I hadn’t been since Pearl Jam in 2003–is a venue that requires good seats. We’d originally bought lawns for this evening’s show, but then stumbled across four excellent corporate seats (thanks, Miragh!) and ended up seated in the middle of the 300 section. Bri and I arrived a few minutes before Jet took the stage; Paul and Lori staggered in four songs into their set, and by the fifth song we’d pretty much lost interest. For me, Jet redefined the word “blah” as it pertains to music. I couldn’t distinguish one song from the next, save for the three radio hits (including “Look What You’ve Done”, which I actually thought was a John Lennon song the first time I heard it). In that sense, they were a strangely effective opening band: unremarkable, undistinguished and very easily forgotten, yet surprisingly adept at quickening the pulse. And speaking of quickening the pulse–is there a better intro song in rock n’ roll than “Fuckin’ in the Bushes”? It’s been used to announce Oasis’ arrival on stage ever since Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, and it’s just, like, so boss. Tonight, the lights went out to some other instrumental song, and then BAM! It started, and the place went nuts. On walked Oasis, who launched straight into a couple new songs (the latter of which was “Lyla”, lead single from their latest album–I know the title!–Don’t Believe the Truth). The first big sing-a-long came five songs in, with a phat “Morning Glory”.
Was it transcendent? No. But did it rock? Like yo momma. Which brings me back to my original point: the reason I enjoyed myself as much as I did is because this was pure rawk and roll music. Seriously, if you were a working class stiff from Manchester who stumbled into the biggest rock n’ roll band in the world, wouldn’t you want to live it up as well? And for lack of a better transition, that’s exactly what a lot of people in the crowd were doing as well. Oasis attracts a huge dude contingent to its shows–their presence is an inescapable aspect of seeing any band that was big in the 90s–but that also gives us plenty of opportunity to study the dude in an environment in which he (or she) is not at all comfortable. For instance, in front of us were two guys who straddled the dude/non-dude line. One of them, who had flown in from Calgary that very morning to see the show, spent the entire performance dancing wildly in the aisles. The other, who was sporting a shirt from Oasis’ 2001 tour with the Black Crowes (which I attended in St. Paul, Minnesota), was playing various combinations of air drums, air bass (air bass?) and air guitar, which prompted me to exclaim, “He’s a one-man band!” (Paul: “You took the words right out of my mouth!”) Next to Lori, meanwhile, was Token Flabby Stoned Guy who kept doing the ostrich neck the entire show. And next to Bri were two men named Dave, one of whom was from North London and had the word “ARSENAL” tattooed across his midriff. The two of them had somehow sneaked down from the lawns–the venue’s staff are usually diligent when it comes to checking people’s tickets–and decided to pull up next to us; Dave with the Arsenal tattoo was almost as much the star of the show as was Liam or Noel. I’m also at least 50% sure he was hitting on Bri.
One of the other best part about seeing Oasis live is trying to decipher what Liam is saying. Typically, it would go something like this:
Me, to Paul: “Huh?”
I didn’t even pick up the introduction to “Champagne Supernova” which went, simply, “Champagne Supernova”. Honestly, is there anything funnier than a Mancunian accent?
Yet I digress. The set ended spectacularly, with the aforementioned “Champagne Supernova” and then a blistering take on “Rock n’ Roll Star”. The encore opened with a song I didn’t know (“Songbird”, according to the setlists I’ve seen bandied about the internet) and then something I’d never heard before: a full-band “Wonderwall”. (I’m serious–I’d actually never heard Oasis play this song until tonight, although Noel did seranade us with a solo acoustic version at the 2002 Toronto show. Paul, upon hearing this: “The only excuse is if you saw them on Definitely Maybe.”) This was followed, naturally, by “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, with the requisite, epic sing-a-long, before the show was brought to a close with a token cover of “My Generation” (and yes, I ripped off my jacket revealing the Who shirt beneath, and no, I don’t anticipate getting laid tonight. I should also point out that Zak Starkey, who moonlights as the Who’s drummer, is currently occupying Oasis’ revolving drum throne, and that it must be surreal for him to be playing that song having spent the past decade drumming with the actual Who.) After it was finished, Liam stood there with his arms folded across his chest and just oozed arrogance, before bowing gracefully and then quitting the stage; this later prompted Bri to drop the quote of the night, “Indifference is so hot!” (And if you don’t believe me, I’ll try and post the picture of me and Paul that was taken outside the venue.)
Again, it wasn’t transcendent–but Oasis delivered exactly the kind of performance I wanted from them. This is rock music sans pretention–to quote the song, “It’s just rock n’ roll”. Who knew that Oasis had spelled out their entire musical raison d’etre on their very first Side 1, Track 1? “You’re not down with who I am / Look at you now, you’re all in my hands tonight,” sings Gallagher the Younger, and he’s right. You’re not down with Oasis? Who the fook are you, anyway? This how rock n’ roll music was supposed to be–not some lame attempt at waxing philosophical over a series of blips. When I think rock n’ roll, I think big riffs, liquid solos, a bowel-loosing rhythm section and a charismatic lead singer–and that, in a nutshell, is what we got tonight. Oasis, at its peak, was the biggest band in the world, and were delightfully willing to admit it (witness Noel’s infamous greeting to a sold out Molson Park in 1995). Oasis talked like rock stars, drank like rock stars, fought like rock stars…eventually, this was bound to rub people the wrong way. It did, and when combined with a string of uneven releases it has undone much of the good that the band did on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and Definitely Maybe. But that fact remains that Oasis, as a rock n’ roll band, are one of the last remaining giants. For that, I’m thankful.
In that sense, maybe “My Generation” was the only possible closer, because Oasis–like it or not–will go down as one of our generation’s most important bands. Sure, they’ve fallen out of favour as of late, but if you’re old enough to remember 1995 you can more than likely sing along to most of What’s the Story. Oasis might not write the most intellectually stimulating music…but as far as sheer, unadulterated rock n’ roll music is concerned, they have very few peers in this day and age. That, I think, is the reason I enjoyed seeing them again–and why you’ll likely be reading a review of another Oasis concert in a year or so.