Monday 4 June 2018

Oasis: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs

You can now buy 'Little By Little - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Oasis' in e-book form by clicking here!

I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important, along with one particularly good one that summed up the band's setlist during their live peak (or one of them, anyway). Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to (in some cases anyway) last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! Oasis are one of the few AAA bands who were pretty neatly balanced between making their name on stage and in the studio. Most of the biographies out there tend to be concerned more with what was happening off-stage than on, with band splits and walkouts legendary. Oasis must also be unique in rock and roll for managing to carrying on even when their lead singer got ill or lost his voice, as happened occasionally in Oasis’ heyday (Noel having played his songs to himself for so many years that he knew all the lyrics anyway – there’s a classic Youtube clip of him singing [  ] ‘Acquiesce’ effectively to himself, as well as the whole ‘MTV Unplugged’ debacle). There remain though a number of gigs important for what happened on stage as well as off.

1)  Where: The Boardwalk, Manchester When: August 18th 1991 Why: First Gig Setlist: Unknown but probably included lots of Stone Roses covers and ‘four original songs’ (probably ones that were never recorded or even written down!)

A dozen people were the chosen few who bothered up to see a band named ‘Sweet Jesus’ and their shy low budgeted opening act ‘The Rain’. Most of them were so stoned out of their minds they couldn’t remember it anyway or only remember it as some sort of drink and drug fuelled hallucination, but this really was where Oasis’ rise started. There are a few key differences: Noel wasn’t in the band and didn’t even know his brother was in one, carting equipment for the Inspiral Carpets for a living. The band only had a few songs in their setlist – mostly ‘real’ songs by the Stone Roses and early Liam originals that sounded as if they should have been - and nobody can agree on what they played this night – chances are it was a mixture of Stone Roses songs and the odd Sex Pistols track (some say they even ended with [  ] ‘I Am The Walrus’, starting a grand tradition that will last across their thousand or so recorded concerts. The Rain, named after a Beatle B-side, were using second hand equipment and couldn’t even afford a microphone stand leaving Liam to twirl his mike unconvincingly in his hands (this may be why he as soon as he got one he made a career of standing stock-still and more often than not staring at the ceiling). The Rain really didn’t go down that well – they were singing material that everyone else in Manchester was doing and had only had the barest amount of rehearsals, while most of the band were still seeing music as ‘something to do’ rather than a legitimate career. One person who did see something in their performance, though, is Noel who by fate or chance or a touch of skiving has managed to take the week off from the Inspiral Carpets and is in the audience that very night. Telling the band that they were ok but needed some decent songs he kindly agreed to let them use his (interestingly, far from being furious at losing control, Liam claims this was his ‘secret plan’ all along, to shock his brother out of his complacency with the threat of his baby brother getting it together where he hadn’t). Full speech as related by Noel that night: ‘You’re alright, but you got no tunes’ ‘Well its more than you ever fooking did, you’ve got loads of songs and yet you’re sat on your arse being a roadie so stop slagging my band off!’ Cue the start of nearly twenty years of the epitome of ‘musical and personal differences…’

2)  Where: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow When: May 31st 1993 Why: The Gig That Got Them Signed Setlist: Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Bring It On Down Up In The Sky I Am The Walrus

Astonishingly six grainy minutes exist of the night Oasis made history, even though nobody really knew who they were at the time. Ever since 1991 Oasis had become more serious about their craft, ditching their first name, adding Noel full time and building up an impressive batch of new songs. But they had still barely made it out of their own postal code and were still playing far too far down the bill for their tastes. Getting the nod to perform in one of Glasgow’s hippest clubs (thanks to a few showbiz contacts made through the Inspiral Carpets was a big break for the band – even though they were down the bottom of a bill of four names (and nobody knew the other three either). Alan McGee, having recently formed his own independent music label ‘Creation’, was convinced that there was a decent rock and roll act out there somewhere and this being his local he turned up occasionally to check out the talent. As per usual the musicians on the bill were getting him down – until Oasis appeared, swore at the crowd and launched into their early anthem ‘Rock and Roll Star’. His ears piqued by what the band were saying but worrying that he was just drunk, McGee was in two minds about whether they were right for him, until third song [  ]  ‘Up In The Sky’ convinced him that they were special. The footage, included in Oasis documentary ‘Supersonic’, reveals a band who are a little bit nervous about playing so far away from home and who are playing a little bit slow. The performance is also incredibly dark so that you can’t really see Liam doing his stuff and Noel never looks up from his guitar once. Even so, by 1993 standards, it’s electrifying – energetic, brutal, dangerous, everything period music wasn’t. Frankly I’d have signed them too that night.

3)  Where: Whisky-A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, California When: September 29th 1994 Why: Gig Where Noel Walks Out Setlist: Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Columbia Fade Away Digsy’s Dinner Live Forever Bring It On Down Up In The Sky Slide Away Cigarettes and Alcohol Married With Children Supersonic I Am The Walrus

Moving on sixteen months and Oasis are the biggest act in Britain, with debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’ a month old and making its way to the top of the charts. Not yet the world though – for that they have to do what so many bands before them have done and go to the United States to make their fortune, buried once more at the bottom of a bill they have only just climbed at home. Being abroad in hotel rooms and lost in a land where people talk funny and walk on the wrong side of the road has broken up far more stable bands than Oasis – for this band it was pure torture. They squabbled over everything with bust-ups on stage and off as the American audiences just didn’t ‘get’ their brand of gang culture and yearning. Liam is alleged to have started insulting the band between each and every song and threw a tambourine at his brother before the final encore. The lacklustre response from the audience hit Noel particularly badly and in a Mancunian rewrite of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ he legged it after this gig, disappearing completely while the rest of the band and managers tried to track down where he was. The answer was he’d run off to San Francisco to be with a girl he’d met a few days before, to put his head back together again. She was one of the few Americans  who felt about Oasis the way British girls did and had got chatting after a gig, inviting Noel to stay ‘sometime’. With no other friendly faces in the country Noel found himself flying there with nothing except his guitar to meet Melissa Lim, a girl he’d only met once. Telling her that he’d quit the band and they were going to split up she told him that they were too good to break up, buying him lunch and taking him for a walk and a chat in nearby Huntingdon Park, telling him ‘you’re not breaking up on my watch!’ The conversation resulted in sweet Oasis B-side [  ] ‘Talk Tonite’ (about how a girl ‘saved my life’) which, so Noel says, is pretty much verbatim about what happened that night. The next day Noel sheepishly got hold of his manager and told him the gigs were still on – but sadly the pair never met up again, with just one more phonecall between them (where Melissa, so she says, told him not to [  ]  ‘look back in anger’ over his brother’s actions, inspiring a second straight Oasis classic). Oasis then became so big that the pair lost touch, Noel admitting to newspapers that he couldn’t even remember the girl’s name anymore. The Oasis story might have ended with the above gig, then, had it not been for circumstances that night.

4)  Where: Knebworth Park, UK When: August 10-11th 1996 Why: Biggest Gig Setlist: The Swamp Song Columbia Acquiesce Supersonic Hello Some Might Say Roll With It Slide Away Morning Glory Round Are Way Cigarettes and Alcohol Whatever Cast No Shadow Wonderwall The Masterplan Don’t Look Back In Anger My Big Mouth It’s Getting’ Better (Man!!!) Live Forever Champagne Supernova I Am The Walrus

Oasis never really did crack the US fully. But boy did they crack Britain – their two night performance on August bank holiday in Knebworth’s famous park, roughly midway between the release of ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Be Here Now’ was a life-changing milestone for the 1990s generation the same way that ‘Monterey’ was in 1967 and ‘Woodstock’ was for 1969 (or Spike Island in 1989). For once this was very much a Woodstock style gig not an ‘Altamont’ one – the vibes were good, the weather was great and Radio One were broadcasting the entire first two hour show for the unlucky people who weren’t amongst the record-breaking quarter of a million people who got tickets. ‘This is history’ declares Liam at the start, ‘Right here, right now, this is history. Who wants to go to history at the weekend to watch Oasis?’ Things weren’t perfect – the band nearly broke up over the state of the, err, sausages backstage (why is it always food with this band?!?) and a sleep-deprived band had found to their horror that their VIP tent was close to the stage where Prodigy were performing a particularly noisy stage-set all night. Snoozy or not, Oasis blew away their competitors that night and played one of their best sets on record, full of pretty much every song from their first two albums, plus copious B-sides and a preview of two songs from ‘Be Here Now’ that went down remarkably well. The result was a triumph and yet the band fell flat on going home, Noel remembering being asked by a journalist ‘what next?’ and admitting that, for the first time since about 1991, he hadn’t got a clue as he knew they couldn’t top this (he admits in the ‘Supersonic’ film he should have ‘ended it there and then’). Unable to sleep that night, Noel tested out his new famous status by calling at the house of Knebworth stately park and asking for a bath. The Lord of the manor acquiesced and showed him into the bathroom after giving him a bottle of champagne! (The guest book still records to this day one ‘very clean Noel Gallagher’ praising their hospitality!) Alas this was about the closest Oasis were going to get to Lordship as Oasis will gradually lose much of that huge following, thanks to a year of procrastination and an overblown third album that will be released at the worst time possible (the week of Pirncess Diana’s death).

5)  Where: V Festival, Staffordshire When: August 22nd 2009 Why: Final Gig (?) Setlist: Fuckin’ In The Bushes Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Lyla The Shock Of The Lightning Cigarettes and Alcohol Roll With It Waiting For The Rapture The Masterplan Songbird Slide Away Morning Glory My Big Mouth Half The World Away I’m Outta Time Wonderwall Supersonic Live Forever Don’t Look Back In Anger Champagne Supernova I Am The Walrus

Even so, Oasis were never quitters and they lasted another thirteen years – often against the odds – enjoying the fruits of their earlier labours. Fruit though was what did them in after one backstage row too many, in a crammed dressing room, at a festival in Paris. Liam reckoned his clothing firm ‘Pretty Green’ should get discount in the coming year’s Oasis tour programme. Noel thought they should have nothing to do with anything but music. Noel already had simmering resentment after a number of cancelled gigs that tour. Liam for his part felt that Noel was responsible for the bad-mouthing of him in the media. A discussion turned into a tantrum. A plum was thrown. In retaliation a guitar went flying. Noel claimed he would never work with his brother again. Liam, for his part, reckons this row was nothing and was an ‘excuse’ for a man who had already made up his mind to leave. In timing more like a farce than rock and roll it was then the band were called on to the stage – and instead Noel went and sat in his car to decide his future. An apologetic press release came out that night which read ‘It’s with some sadness but also great relief to inform you that I quit tonight’. And Oasis were over after decades of speculation as to how it might end and why. The final gig in Stafford wasn’t planned that way (Oasis had another four gigs booked before the end of the tour) and it comes as a life lesson, dear readers. The V Festival was right on the doorstep of where I used to live and I so very nearly went to it. Only I was bedbound with m.e. and figured ‘I can catch them next time’ (the Festival being such a must-play every band was doing it) – and that next time never came, so I missed out on the chance to see Oasis’ final gig. Rather fittingly it ended in a different way to most gigs on that tour with a surprise revival of their Beatles cover ‘I Am The Walrus’ that hadn’t been heard for a while, making the last words Oasis ever sang on stage being a menacing and oddly fitting ‘goo goo ger joooob!’ Footage of this performance exists, making Oasis one of the few bands who have visual footage existing from the day they were ‘discovered’ right up until the bitter end!

The musical baton thing works both ways – sometimes younger or contemporary or even older acts hear music that they like and want it in their discography too. That tends to be particularly true of groups who are big or who sum up a place and time for a particular generation so well. I’m surprised, therefore, that there haven’t actually been that many Oasis covers until now – well if you take out the inevitable seventy-and-counting versions of [  ] ‘Wonderwall’ out of the equation anyway (by far Oasis’ most covered song). What this band lacks in quantity though it makes up for in quantity with some downright bonkers cover versions that are exactly what cover versions of anything should be – utterly different to the original. Other bands trying to sound like Oasis without the magic secret formula for placing all those guitars do tend to sound a bit silly, so we’ve gone a bit more mainstream than normal with our selections. It’s proof, though, of just how big Oasis were and are that so many middle of the road acts wanted to cover their songs (and not always the obvious ones either), whilst these recordings in turn show off what an under-rated melodic band this is underneath all the rock and roll riffs, firepower and Liam’s roar.

1)  The Mike Flowers Pop [  ] Wonderwall (A-Side 1995)

I hate you, Chris Evans (the DJ, not the actor). For once in my life I was semi-popular after ‘discovering’ Oasis and proclaiming them to be the next big thing in a sea of mediocrity (although to be fair it was the end-of-year music group band who decided they would cover [  ] ‘Live Forever’ amongst a dozen other period songs that really caught my attention). Suddenly they were and I was no longer ‘the weird kid who likes The Beatles’ but ‘that kid with his finger on the pulse of today’s music who can teach us all about The Beatles, even though he’s clearly still weird’. I was doing really well – and then Chris Evans decided he would play a practical joke on his radio show (which I heard every bleeding day against my will on the school bus – I have post traumatic stress when I hear his voice now). Suddenly, ho ho ho, he’s found the ‘original’ version of Wonderwall that Oasis covered and it’s awful, all jazz lounge and middle of the road and icky and something your grandparents probably listened to. Suddenly, overnight (at least in my school) Oasis were no more and even my pleading that the DJ was either a) wrong or b) teasing or c) stupid (all three?) and Noel really did write it, honest, fell on deaf ears. Annoyed I set out to listen to this supposed original and, well, if it wasn’t all meant as a piss-take anyway. Mike Flowers’ band are, you see, to the 1990s what The Baron Knights were to the 1960s – gently taking the mickey out of anything contemporary and popular by making it sound as un-trendy as possible. What’s interesting about this cover version, though, is how good it sounds (and indeed looks in the promo) considering that it’s meant to be rubbish. To give you a clue, there is no ‘real’ Mike Flowers – the MFP title is a homage to the ‘Music For Pleasure’ vinyl series that doled out rubbish but cheap and singalong pop to a mass market between the 1940s and 1970s. In an era of Austin Powers and rib-taking, it made perfect sense – a re-setting of ‘Wonderwall’ as a cod jazz lounge single sung by a groomed 1950s looking American idol (before there was American Idol) with slicked-back hair and two bored but sexy female singers. There’s even a crackle on the record to give it that authentic period feel. I ought to be cross as hell that Oasis were made to sound like a joke but, once I realised it was meant to be funny I loved it! The melody is very different, so much so that you barely see it as the same song, with phrases ending in different places and a very artificial ‘false’ feel to the vocal that’s the polar opposite of Liam’s gutsy original. The backing though is sumptuous – marching horns, sweeping strings, a churchy organ and an ‘oompah’ feel, which is much how Oasis might have sounded in a pre-Beatle age (and indeed if Noel’s idol Burt Bacharach had written it). Released with some speed, this version shot up the top ten while Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ was still at number one, which must have been some mean feat of arranging and producing. The MFP’s next single ‘Light My Fire’ is pretty good too, reimagining The Doors if they’d come with an orchestra section, though thereafter the jokes started being predictable and not everyone got them anyway. I do, though, forgive the MFP for making me the un-coolest kid in school again – I was happier like that anyway.

2)  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [  ] Champagne Supernova (‘Plays Oasis’ 1997)

You can have all of the gold records, academy awards and magazine covers in the world, but until you get your own orchestral covers album, you’re nobody. It’s a measure of how big and influential Oasis became overnight that their version came out a few months before ‘Be Here Now’ to fill up the summer when everyone was talking about them. Impressively, weirdly, good it is too, with a huge orchestra given some fitting arrangements that are still recognisably like the real thing (not like some Beatles orchestral albums I own that kinda miss the point). The album tends to be better on ballads than rockers though where Noel’s gift for melody really comes through and these could easily be from a genuine classical composer (but better, quite honestly). My favourite though is the Royal Philharmonic’s version of Oasis’ most epic number, which on paper should sound dreadful without the lyrics to keep us interested and all that sustained feedback to keep us excited. Instead it’s hauntingly beautiful, with the pull between hope and pessimism that’s subtle on the original there in full swing, as the strings try their hardest to push on and discover a brand new day, only to run off scared by the weight of the other instruments. Playing the main melody on a flute is also a masterstroke as it really suits this song’s sad yet cheeky tune. The only problem with this version, if you like, is that the drummer is no Alan White and is playing one of the hardest drum-parts in rock and roll…those classical musicians, they obviously don’t practice as much as rock and rollers!

3)  Gregorian [  ] Stop Crying Your Heart Out (‘Masters Of Chant V’ 2006)

We end with a Gregorian choir (now there’s a sentence I can almost certainly guarantee I will never use in my life again!) ‘Stop Crying’ is one of my favourite of the late-period Oasis singles – it’s a primal desperate solitary howl that in true Noel Gallagher fashion somehow rights itself from agony into a protective song that tries to show support and make the world a better place. It’s an apt choice, then, for a choir full of massed voices to sing. A long moody piano opening gives way to a massed chant all telling us to ‘hold on!’, while the hopeful chorus (‘Just try not to worry…’) sounds like the sun coming out. I wish this version had been just a little more rock and roll as we lack enough of interest to keep us going into the finale, but then that’s Gregorian choirs for you I guess. This is still a very beautiful version of a very beautiful song and completely different to the original! The group also do Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ incidentally, but that one’s just weird as a mass choir play the roles of a doctor and his patient and there’s no flipping David Gilmour guitar solo!

Other Oasis articles from this website: 

'(What's The Story?) Morning Glory' (1995)

'Be Here Now' (1997)

‘Heathen Chemistry’ (2002)

‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005)

'Dig Out Your Soul' (2008)

'Different Gear, Still Speeding' (Beady Eye) (2011)

'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (2011) 

'Chasing Yesterdays' (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds) (2015)

Who Built The Moon? (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds) (2017)

The Best Unreleased Oasis Recordings 1992-2013

Surviving TV Clips 1994-2009:

Compilation/Live/Solo Albums: 1994-2010

Non-Album Songs Part One: 1993-1998

Non-Album Songs Part Two: 2000-2015

No comments:

Post a Comment