Oasis, Earl's Court, London, 1995
published: 16 /
Anthony Dhanendran writes, in our 'Gig of a Lifetime' series, of seeing Oasis in 1995, at a stadium show at the Earl's Court Arena in London.
Oasis are a joke, right? Well, they are now. But back then, they were most definitely no joke. No joke at all. If they were anything they were the saviours of British rock music. They were the new Stone Roses. The new Inspiral Carpets. The new Beatles. The new Status Quo? Probably a bit of all of them.
In 1994 you were either young and foolish enough to believe the hype, or you were a little older and a little wiser and you’d lived before through what ‘Word’ magazine now terms “music-industry mis-selling” – the frivolous and spurious “pumping” of otherwise unremarkable bands in order to boost sales of magazines and of records.
Oasis weren’t unremarkable, of course, but neither were they the Beatles. Still, if you were young enough and foolish enough to believe even some of the hype, which I have to admit I was, you could believe that the spirit of Lennon and McCartney was alive and well and had merely travelled the twenty-odd miles down the M62 from Liverpool to Manchester.
So 1995 rolls around and it’s a year on from ‘Definitely Maybe’. The world, or at least the country, awaits the new masterpiece. Of course, there’s no way it’s going to live up to the first album. The hype, the pressure, the stardom, the yes-men: they were all starting to take their toll. We didn’t know that at the time, but it would become increasingly obvious with each successive album until the band finally imploded on a tour of the US.
But that’s far in the future. We’re back in August 1995 and Paul and Max turn up at my house. It doesn’t matter who Paul and Max are. What matters is that they’ve heard that Oasis are going to play two nights at Earl’s Court in November and that we were going to be there. We headed straight to HMV to buy our tickets (that’s how long ago this was). Not Max; his tastes ran more to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in those days. But the rest of us were going.
The album wasn’t out yet. It wouldn’t be released for another two months, just a few weeks before the gigs. Things were only going to get bigger from here. The gigs sell out, of course, amid tabloid rumours of the genteel local residents worrying about hordes of rampaging Britpop-rock fans emptying their bladders over their garden gnomes, as though London SW5 were Axminster and Earl’s Court the local civic hall.
Come the big day, the first of the two, the rumours were flying: Richard Ashcroft (then of newly split-up the Verve) would be supporting; McCartney would be there. Who knows about Macca? In the end the Bootleg Beatles did the honours in Ashcroft’s place. How could it have been anyone else?
To tell the truth now, I don’t remember much of the gig. I remember being roughly in the middle, toward the front of the crowd of 20,000, and being able to lift my feet off the ground because of the sheer crush of people, which didn’t let up for much of the show. I remember the camera sweeping overhead, capturing the evening for the posterity of the ‘There and Then’ DVD, particularly, for some reason, during ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.
As with most people’s memories of events that were later televised, my memories blend into the visions of the DVD. What I can remember is that to be there, that night, was to be in the most important place in the world. A few years ago the band’s erstwhile Svengali Alan McGee told ‘The Guardian’ it was his favourite Oasis gig too: “It was pure storming hedonism and it was one of the few moments where they truly captured the pop culture zeitgeist.”
I was young and foolish then (and I’m old and foolish now), but Oasis came along at just the right moment to make me part of something that seemed important, vital, life-affirming. I’ve seen better gigs since then: more important, more transcendent, better played, better sung. But Gigs of a Lifetime don’t come around all that often, and if you were to ask me to pick one, this would have to be it.
“Please don’t put your life in the hands,” the man on stage is singing, “of my rock and roll band/We’ll throw it all away.” Not the young, impetuous, loud one. The older, more in-control one, who ia pulling the strings. Well, we did. Not for long, but we did. And it was good.