It’s debatable who has fared worse in the continued effort by Oasis to break in America. Ever since their early ‘90s splash with the masterpieces Definitely Maybe and its even better follow-up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? both the band and the fans in Philadelphia have had a rough go of it.
For the latter, the only opportunity to see the lads live has been a series of shoddy radio festival appearances with sets lasting well under an hour and consisting of only a few songs. In 2001, on the “Brotherly Love Tour” with the Black Crowes, their show clocked in at just less than 45 minutes. In 2002, a sold-out show at the Tower Theater was cancelled a few days prior, after singer/songwriter Noel Gallagher and bassist Andy Bell were involved in a car accident. That show was never rescheduled.
For the band, there’s the succession of critical disasters, beginning with the underrated but overproduced Be Here Now in 1997 and tepid reactions to each release since. Responses have ranged from indifference to head shaking as Noel and his brother Liam have continued with their over-the-top antics even as the group’s popularity has continued to decline, especially Stateside. From the requisite Kinks-like squabbles between the siblings, to the slagging of nearly every artist who has blown up over the past decade, to the complete revamping of the band line-up, Oasis has become little more than a parody of itself.
Thankfully, the tide has finally turned. First came the May release of their most critically acclaimed record in years, Don’t Believe the Truth, a rollicking, tuneful disc which at times recalls a swagger ten years gone, a strut that’s been sorely missing from the Oasis repertoire. Then a handful of U.S. dates were announced, culminating with a stop in Philadelphia. The dates have gone off without a hitch, and for the most part received rave reviews, save for some critics who it seem to hold a grudge against the group for their failure to save rock and roll.
Ripe for a letdown after the highly touted Madison Square Garden show (where by all accounts the band performed fabulously) a few days before, Oasis came to Philly with one goal in mind, and that was to leave the States with an indelible impression to hold us over until they return in the fall.
Anticipation was high at the sold-out Festival Pier, with a sundown performance by Aussie rockers Jet setting the tone. Oasis stepped out into a blue light to the strains of the Don’t Believe the Truth opener “Turn Up the Sun”, followed by another duo from the record, including the single “Lyla”, generating the first of many full-on singalongs.
Expectedly, the songs garnering the loudest response were the poppy ballads, particularly “Champagne Supernova” and “Wonderwall” (which hadn’t been performed live in Philadelphia in five years), but it was the encore of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” which left Noel’s vocals so drowned out by the audience that it prompted him to step away from the mic and let them sing. Afterwards, he stepped out to the lip of the stage and applauded the crowd for their performance.
It wasn’t all acoustic sunshine though, the early blast of “Bring It Down” proved that the rock would also be coming hard throughout the night. Showcasing Liam’s preening and posturing, “Morning Glory” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” left the singer acting out the optimal role of a dismissive, tambourine shaking, quintessential frontman quite well. Critics have complained that the lack of movement, interaction with the crowd, hands clasped behind the back and Lemmy-like leaning up towards his microphone are tired. Fact is, that’s Liam; fans not only come to expect it, they come to see it. Whether it’s egging on the photographers in the pit, teasing them with a shot before quickly changing his pose and walking away, or staring off, trancelike when it’s not his time to do anything in the song, it’s all the markings of Liam’s inimitable cockiness. With a pinstriped blazer over a simple t-shirt and necessary at-nighttime sunglasses, the younger Gallagher showed style and class the entire evening.
With 18 songs and over 90 minutes, Oasis has shown that they can still rock the house, or the pier in this case, and outperform almost any band around. How long will it last? Time will play it all out, but if the music keeps getting better and if the shows remain this solid, these Manchester natives have a good chance at reclaiming their Britpop crown.
It may not be all on the straight and narrow either. As Liam indicated before the fourth song in the encore, a rousing cover of The Who’s “My Generation”, the night was just beginning in a way; “This is definitely the last song of the night, ‘cause I’m off to get wankered!”
Cheers to Liam and the boys on this one—and here’s to hoping the hits keep coming.