Oasis’ homecoming gig sees the return of the swagger and snarls
Times have changed since Oasis last played the home of Manchester City FC. Most visible are the changes to the grounds themselves. Back in 1996, the city’s favourite team were still kicking off at the cauldron that was Maine Road rather than the state-of-the-art City Of Manchester Stadium that hosts today’s homecoming. But it’s not just the pitch that’s different. Drummer Alan White, the last remaining non-Gallagher to appear at Maine Road, was shown his cards late last year. Meanwhile, Oasis’ once seemingly endless advance has since been beset with countless false starts. The bloated ‘Be Here Now’ could be excused as a unique moment of too much success and cocaine, but its underwhelming follow-ups have dented the band’s invincibility.
Fortunately, in these years of flux there’s been one constant. Whatever their creative situation, Oasis’ live shows have dominated generations with an epic rock’n’roll other bands have just forgotten how to do. From the audacity of Earls Court, to the magnitude of Knebworth, and even in their lean studio periods, the Finsbury Parks and Wembley’s ‘Familiar To Millions’, have seen this band dominate the stadiums. Only once did Oasis stutter, and that was last year’s Glastonbury. The anthems were there, but bereft of swagger, the performance wasn’t.
However home again, and with the world’s musical eyes distracted by Live8 a day earlier, a vintage one this evening would not go amiss. Reassuringly Oasis’ finger seems back on the pulse. This tour boasts support from the likes of The Zutons and New York space-gazers Secret Machines, and tonight’s line-up is similarly forward-looking. The Subways’ bubblegum rock encouragingly fills the stadium, while Doves could play cavernous spaces like these all day and still sound like they need more room for the likes of ‘There Goes The Fear’. As fellow Mancunians, Doves’ birthright helps build the carnival atmosphere, but it’s when Liam Gallagher takes the stage, dressed like he’s straight from the beach, that things reach fever pitch – Oasis have unfinished business with this town.
Opener ‘Turn Up The Sun’ lays down the pattern for the evening, its industrial-strength bassline inspiring a surge of foot-pounding mayhem that vibrates the City Of Manchester Stadium to its foundations. A quick burst of classics, including ‘Bring It On Down’ and ‘…Morning Glory?’, helps the crowd find their voice and it’s apparent that everyone – from the five on stage, to the multitudes below – is in rare form. ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ and ‘Live Forever’ might sound massive normally, but tonight with 60,000 of their fellow Mancs yelling out every word, Oasis aren’t just big, they’re booming like God’s own house band. As if to demonstrate their status, the Gallagher brothers rip into a sneering version of their pub-brawl duet ‘Acquiesce’ and impressively bring an entire stadium to its feet with a B-side.
Revitalised and aggressive, songs from ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ shake-off their studio timidity and brim with bluster. ‘A Bell Will Toll’ becomes a Beatles-esque, big-beat monster, while ‘Mucky Fingers’ irresistibly careers through the arena like a brake-less freight train, suggesting that Oasis’ recent renaissance is not just about nostalgia but – at last – the promise of their future. Only once do the band lose this progressive vision, during ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ when Noel’s performance is swallowed by the crowds’ insistence on making it Manchester’s unofficial anthem. Pumped-up closer, a cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’, recovers the band’s edge if not their originality, shaking the stadium for one last bout of structural damage.
With an emotional Noel Gallagher applauding the crowd as his band leaves the stage, this trip back home has confirmed that Oasis are moving forward once again – a band ready to join the likes of U2 as rock’n’roll’s living custodians, but more importantly, a band with a creative future.
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Rock historians were already working overtime this weekend because of Live8. Tonight they got even busier.