Oasis performs a hometown gig at the City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England as part of its 2005 “Don’t Believe the Truth” U.K. tour. Part of the Coda A Family Affair Theme.
If there are power rankings for anticipated rock reunions, Oasis has to rank near the top of the list. Ever since it unceremoniously imploded in 2009 — Noel and Liam Gallagher came to blows backstage in Paris, apparently some thrown fruit was involved — no band has emerged to take over its anthemic pub-rock lane. Instead, Oasis was feted with a popular and mythmaking 2016 documentary, “Supersonic,” that no doubt fueled the public’s still-considerable interest in the band. Consider that its signature track, “Wonderwall,” is among the small number of rock songs to be streamed more than one billion times on Spotify — none of its ‘90s Britpop brethren come close to approaching that.
Anyone wondering what these lads were like in their prime needs to check out Oasis’ “Live at City of Manchester Stadium,” a concert video culled from a raucous hometown performance in 2005. Skeptics may insist that the band’s prime actually occurred a full decade earlier, when Oasis was flush with its initial burst of fame in the wake of its classic 1994 debut, “Definitely Maybe,” and the blockbuster sophomore release from 1995, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” In 1997, Oasis infamously went off the deep end of excess and cocaine abuse with its third album, the bloated (but endearing!) “Be Here Now.” The band was forced to buckle down and refocus as a meat-and-potatoes trad-rock outfit, pounding the boards in arenas all over the world with a sense of professionalism it didn’t have at the height of Britpop-mania.
By 2005, and the release of its comeback LP “Don’t Believe the Truth,” Oasis had evolved into an actual band with the addition of Andy Bell (formerly of Ride) and Gem Archer, who along with Liam contributed songs that could stand toe-to-toe with Noel’s best. As “Live at City of Manchester Stadium” attests, the other crucial addition during this era was drummer Zak Starkey, easily the finest drummer Oasis ever employed. The extra muscle that Starkey’s powerful and unfussy timekeeping adds to warhorses like “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Acquiesce” was pivotal to Oasis’ greatest period as a live act. (The set-closing “My Generation” nods to Starkey’s other high-profile gig in The Who.)
But as good as the favorites sound, the show also makes a convincing case for the “Don’t Believe the Truth” material, which hits especially hard, whether it’s the barroom singalong “Lyla” or the sneering “A Bell Will Ring,” a topflight contribution from Archer. Even Liam the songwriter gets a spotlight with the sweet ballad “Songbird” (a highlight of the otherwise maligned 2003 album, “Heathen Chemistry”), which he pointedly sings while staring directly at his brother. (That Noel himself sings a full 25 percent of the songs in this set feels like ominous foreshadowing of their eventual dissolution.)
Once Oasis finally counts in, the fans’ rowdiness proves to be a perfect counterpoint to the music at hand.
Of course, the vintage hits are still the biggest draw. Though Liam’s voice is hoarser than it was in the mid-‘90s, he’s still able to send anthems like “Live Forever” and “Wonderwall” straight into the stratosphere, all while standing mostly immobile on stage. (At one point he does manage to balance a tambourine perfectly on his head.) And then there’s the audience: tens of thousands of local lads going absolutely nuts for all things Oasis. “Live at City of Manchester Stadium” begins with the band trying for several minutes to calm them down so it can begin the show — the enthusiastic punters apparently even cracked the barrier wall in front of the stage. Once Oasis finally counts in, the fans’ rowdiness proves to be a perfect counterpoint to the music at hand.
“Look at you now, you’re all in my hands tonight,” Liam sings, and he’s absolutely right.
Oasis “Live from Manchester” Setlist
Turn Up the Sun
Cigarettes & Alcohol
The Importance of Being Idle
Little by Little
A Bell Will Ring
Rock ’n’ Roll Star
The Meaning of Soul
Don’t Look Back in Anger
My Generation (The Who cover)
Steven Hyden is the author of “This Isn’t Happening,” “Twilight of the Gods,” “Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me,” and (with Steve Gorman) “Hard to Handle.” His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Grantland, The A.V. Club, Slate and Salon. He is currently the cultural critic at UPROXX. He lives in Minnesota with his wife and two children.