April 27 and 28 saw Oasis headline their first ever stadium shows. Fittingly, they took place at Maine Road, then home to Liam and Noel Gallagher’s Manchester City FC. “Maine Road was where we all used to go as kids,” Noel later said of the shows. “It looked like a big front room, except there were 42,000 people in it.” Landing after the release of ‘What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?’ but before the band’s gigantic shows at Knebworth Park had even been announced, these gigs marked the first time Oasis joined rock’s super league.
Noel Gallagher onstage at the first Maine Road gig, April 27, 1996. This was the first time Noel played his Union Jack Epiphone Sheraton guitar. Oasis rhythm guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs told NME it was a present form Noel’s then-girlfriend Meg Mathews: “She got a guy in London who did up guitars to spray a Union Jack on it. I remember he pulled it out and I was like, ‘Whoa…’”
Liam Gallagher onstage at Maine Road’s second night. Portions of this gig were later released as a video and later DVD, entitled ‘There And Then’. Support acts for the shows included Manic Street Preachers and Ocean Colour Scene.
Maine Road was a watershed moment for Oasis – the first time the band had ever headlined a stadium. An estimated 42,000 people filed in for each of the two gigs, which came just as Oasis were approaching their Britpop peak. They announced their iconic Knebworth shows in NME the week after Maine Road.
Liam Gallagher was just 25 at the time of the gigs. Apparently, there were threats to kidnap him around the two shows. Bonehead: “You always have security knocking about, but [at Maine Road] we had security with Doberman’s and Rottweiler dogs. We were like, ‘What the fuck?!’ and someone said ‘Yeah, there was a serious threat that they were gonna kidnap Liam, so – extra security.’”
Even Noel Gallagher’s Penfield cagoule became iconic following the gigs. The clothing brand recently reissued the jackets as part of their 40th birthday celebrations, saying they were “made uniquely recognisable by Noel Gallagher in the 1990’s”. Vogue, meanwhile, credited Noel’s attire at Maine Road with “elevating the anorak from trainspotting mundanity to the realm of streetwear cool”.
Oasis were backed by an orchestra and brass section for several tracks at the shows, including an impassioned version of ‘Round Are Way’, the B-side written about growing up in the streets around the stadium. They also played a rare encore, finishing with a cover of Slade’s 1973 classic ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’.
Two Oasis members are suspiciously absent from the Maine Road ticket – drummer Alan White was from London, while rhythm guitarist Bonehead is a staunch Manchester United supporter. Liam, Noel and assist Guigsy are City obsessives, with the latter once calling Maine Road “the academy of footballing excellence”.
Liam in all his mid-90s glory. “For a young kid to cope with that, and the rapid rise, the constant touring, the pressure, the way he dealt with it is totally admirable,” says Bonehead now. “That’s just the nature of the guy – he lapped it up, he loved it and he still does today.”
The Maine Road gigs marked the start of a new chapter for Oasis. The weeks that followed saw them play equally seismic shows in Scotland (Loch Lomand), Ireland (Cork) and England (Knebworth), entering rock’s super league in the process. It’s a place they never left.