My one and only Oasis gig. Despite being a hugely enjoyable night of rock’n’roll, it encapsulated precisely why they could never be a band I truly loved.
I’ve written a lot on this blog about my teenage years in Perth, and how I longed to escape to London to experience the music scene that meant more to me than anything in the world. I’ve mentioned the day I finally did leave for London – the 30th of November 1996 – and how it felt to finally be leaving for the city of my dreams. But what I haven’t shared yet is the entry I wrote in my diary on that day, somewhere in amongst all the last minute checking, packing and panicking. What I wrote was just this:
“Maybe I will never be all the things that I want to be, now is not the time to cry, now’s the time to find out why.”
So why, on that day of all days, did I choose an Oasis lyric to sum up how I was feeling, instead of something from one of my heroes like Bowie or the Manics? Despite being the behemoths of the Britpop scene in the mid-90s, Oasis were never a band that I clutched tightly to my heart and soul in the way I did the Manics or Mansun. They were overall far too blokey and full of beer-soaked aggression to ever be a band that I could call my own. But for all of this, they had a knack of throwing out the occasional line that cut deep into the very core of what it feels to be a human being stumbling through the perplexities of life, and nowhere moreso than in “Live Forever”, which remains one of my favourite songs of all time.
But it still took me over three years following my arrival in London to get around to seeing them live. It was summer 2000, and more than six months had passed since my last gig, the triumphant Manic Millennium celebration in Cardiff. I’d left that gig feeling uplifted by the magic of live music, and with a renewed determination to head into the new millennium with gigs aplenty. But, as it turned out, 2000 would be my least gigtastic year since I moved to London, as I only went to three gigs for the whole year.
So what happened? In March of 2000 I turned 25. I started to feel the adult weight of my years in the way only a very young person can, and I felt a need to make sensible plans and mature choices. Then in April and May I spent five weeks back in Australia with my family, and old uncertainties started to creep in. I began to think about returning again, to resume my studies and do something a bit more useful than being a clinic receptionist. I also had a new baby niece to get to know. Due to my country-hopping upbringing, I never had a great deal of contact with aunts, uncles and cousins growing up, and I guess this is why the sudden opportunity to be a proper auntie to this little girl seemed like an appealing one, to make up for what I’d missed out on as a kid.
So the version of me who ventured to Wembley Stadium this summer Saturday in 2000 was one who believed that this would be my last year in London before returning to student life in Perth in 2001. Perhaps this is why I’d finally gotten around to buying a ticket for an Oasis gig. And the first thing I wrote in my diary after the gig was about “Live Forever”, and those words that had been uppermost in my mind when I’d first made my way to London, three and a half years previously.
” “There is nothing conceptually better than rock’n’roll”, said the massive screen behind the turbulent boys during “Live Forever”. I was happy just to hear “Live Forever”, and feel once again the awesome, tragic power of those words: “maybe I will never be all the things that I want to be, now is not the time to cry, now’s the time to find out why.” I realized, suddenly, that the finding out why is something that never, ever ends. The quotes kept coming throughout the song – they’d obviously been studying the Manics – and though many were striking and poignant I cannot remember any others. I only recall hollering and clapping along ’til my throat gave way and my hands stung and burned.”
I’d arrived at the stadium at about twenty to eight, “just as the Happy Mondays were just launching into “Step On”. Brill! Then they do another tune! Then leave!” The earliness of both bands’ on-stage time took me by surprise. “Oasis were on at 8.30! I don’t know if even Take That were on that early!” And speaking of Take That, they were represented this evening by the appearance of an exuberant Robbie Williams in the crowd. “Three rows back in the seats at the side, standing and waving and flicking V signs and doing as much as possible to say “Look at MEEEE!” How sweet.”
Oasis began their set with “Go Let It Out” which set the agenda for the evening. “All you can really do is jump up and down and sing along, forever. Before it was even over I was forced to squeeze myself out of my mid-throng position to a more breathable space on the far side, where I had a good view of the screens and could occasionally even stand on my toes and catch a glimpse of the shaggy Gallaghers wimbling about on the stage. There followed another tune from the latest album, which I guess I’ll buy somewhere along the line. Then it was “Supersonic”! Then “Shakermaker”! Mindless leaping + clapping + shouting. The new stuff just can’t compete, sadly.”
The world of Oasis was a turbulent one in 2000, with reports of previous gigs in which either Liam or more recently Noel had declined to turn up. I was very glad that both brothers had made it to the stage on this occasion, “for otherwise it would have been the Liam Tantrum Show.” There were many, many exchanges between the boys that went approximately thus:
“Liam: If you think I’m fuckin’ happy to be here, yer off yer fuckin’ nut (endless rant of expletive excess on the crapness of everything)
Noel: I’d just like to say thank you all very much for coming to see us tonight, god bless you all. “
I had a great time, bouncing about to the Oasis classics, but certain moments of the gig threw into sharp relief why Oasis could never be a band that meant the world to me. None more so than this egregiously sexist display from Liam.
“Oh I nearly walked out in disgust at one point, when Liam ordered the blokes in the audience to cajole their “birds” into “getting ’em out!” for the big screens (and one did, inevitably). But then they did “Wonderwall” and we shouted along in its dark moody way and I thought, well it may have been exceedingly crap + sexist of Liam, but the girl made her own choice to respond to the crap sexist demand. Which is her problem.”
Now, of course, I’d have much more compassion for the woman, who found herself in the midst of a heaving throng of blokes, being egged on by her boyfriend to expose herself. The blame for this lays squarely on Liam’s shoulders. And I can’t imagine myself, if a similar situation occurred today, staying in a crowd full of such hostility to women – or for such a moment to go unrecorded: the social media backlash today would be justifiably brutal. Liam, inevitably, summed the whole thing up perfectly.
“Liam: It’s true, I am a twat.”
But there were still many wonderful moments as well. My diary records that “Stand By Me” was “exultatious“, though I’m not quite sure if that’s actually a word. My main complaint was not hearing enough tunes from my favourite Oasis album “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory”, “though they did do “Roll With It” (inevitably stomping) “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (the fabness that is Noel!) and “Champagne Supernova” (penultimate, stellar, inevitably).”
And weirdness ensued when I found myself actually enjoying a cover of a Neil Young song, the usually hoary dirge “Hey Hey My My”. “Despite the fact that the ravey 90s have morphed into the tyrannic-pop zeroes, you have to believe that “rock and roll will never die” when you’re in the middle of a multitudinous gathering, all to worship at the altar of squalling guitars. It was moving, somehow very real.”
And it all finished with “Rock’n’Roll Star”, while the screens catapulted through “a barrage of images of Oasis Through The Ages”. And after all this, it seemed Liam didn’t want the gig to end.
“Despite having hurled abuse at us all evening Liam suddenly seemed to have grown very fond of us by the time it ended, roaming the stage after the rest of the band had departed and proclaiming to us “I’m not leaving ’til you do! You first!” He must have gone eventually for we were soon let out to make our way very slowly through police-horse barriers back to the tube.”
Reflecting on the gig the following day, my feelings towards Oasis were somewhat ambivalent. “I enjoyed myself last night, though I can easily imagine the band being capable of far more blazing gigs. But I don’t really feel the need to see Oasis again.“
And I never did, with little regret. I did buy a ticket to see Liam Gallagher at Finsbury Park last year, having thoroughly enjoyed his debut solo album “As You Were”, but then I decided to move home, and my moving date turned out to be the day after the gig. So I sold my ticket, again with little regret.
But I’m glad I at least had this one chance to see the band that, for so many, defined the 90s completely. They may not be one of my all time favourite bands, but they still released many tracks I love, which soundtracked various pockets of my life, and with occasional lyrical flourishes which struck a deep chord in me with their emotional truth. And because of that, despite all their oafishness and their prehistoric attitudes, I remain greatly fond of this gang of rascals.