There is nothing quite like the first time. I got to see one of the bands in my pantheon live for the first time March 26. I know my pantheon is not exactly an exclusive club. I am a fanboy.
I started listening to Oasis in 1994-95. I fell in love with “Live Forever” the first time I heard it. I did not go out and buy the album right away. I remember liking the song and one day I was in a music store and I saw (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? on the shelf. I picked it up and looked for “Live Forever.” No such luck.
Instead of thinking they might have another album out with that song I started thinking “Live Forever” might be one of those songs with a weird title that has nothing to do with the actual words in the song. So I bought Morning Glory. I took it home. I listened to it. I liked it. “Live Forever” was nowhere to be found. I was pissed. I took the CD to a used store and traded it in on something or other. Weeks later I was in another music store, saw Definitely Maybe, saw “Live Forever” was on it, bought it, and was pleased with myself for solving the riddle.
Then I heard “Wonderwall” on the radio a few weeks later and wound up buying Morning Glory for a second time. What can I say? I am an idiot.
I remember listening to Mary Carillo talk about John McEnroe on Tony Kornheiser’s old ESPN radio program. She said something that struck Kornheiser and has stayed with me. About McEncroe she said, “Everything you have ever heard about him is true.” People have said a lot about McEnroe over the years. He’s been praised, vilified, lauded, and mocked and everything you have ever heard about him is probably true. That seems a fair description of Oasis.
Critics have derided Oasis for being nothing more than knockoffs. They pretty well admit it and do so without seeing it as any sort of insult. They are brash and they are arrogant. They have lived the rock star clichés and remain mostly unrepentant for a lifetime of bad behavior. The band is easy to dismiss and whether they intended it to be this way or simply learned to deal with it this tendency to dismiss them has become more asset than liability. It is impossible to be as good as the Gallaghers claim they are. Critics will find something to hone in on so give them a big target. Make the caricature big enough to hide behind. It is a bit brilliant.
So is the music – not that anyone will ever tell you that. Oasis’ biggest secret is their music. Read an article about the band in the press these days and you are much more likely to read references to the infamous in-fighting of the brothers Gallagher, booze, drugs, outrageous statements made in interviews – everything except for the music.
There are not many bands who have released singles with B-sides that later became hit singles in their own right or released an album of B-sides that went on to outsell plenty of albums of supposed A-sides by other artists. That is the kind of depth of quality in the Oasis canon. These guys throw away songs are better than the best others have to offer. I realize sales is not the best or final arbiter of quality. Sometimes sales and quality appear to be mutually exclusive. This is one of those occasions where they are not.
The Wife to Whom I Am Married is fond of a song called, “Going Nowhere.” It was first released as a B-side to the Be Here Now single “Stand By Me.” Noel Gallagher handles lead vocal. Musically, the song uses horns and strings expertly to create a sort of Burt Bacharach homage and also features my favorite Noel Gallagher guitar solo.
“Gonna get me a motor car
Maybe a Jaguar maybe a plane or a day of fame
I wanna be a millionaire so can you take me there
Wanna be wild cos my life’s so tame
Here am I, going nowhere on a train
Here am I, growing older in the rain”
The aspirations are a little shallow. The sense of feeling trapped in an unfulfilling life with no direction and nothing but empty dreams that seem so far away is anything but shallow. The music and Noel’s vocal only add to this sense. The song has long been one of my favorites, as well.
“Is it worth the aggravation
to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?”
—“Cigarettes and Alcohol”
This is why Oasis gets crushed with the ‘rip off’ tag. They take an obvious and universal sentiment and marry it to a T-Rex riff. You think the song has lived forever (yes, that’s fuckin’ terrible and I don’t care) but it hasn’t. Not really. “Cigarettes and Alcohol” is another of way of saying, “Take This Job and Shove It.”
Social commentary delivered with big, loud guitars and an arrogant sneer.
When Oasis announced their first-ever concert in Nashville, the Wife to Whom I am Married and I decided this was a “must.” In addition to Nashville being an easy two-hour drive from our house, the show was booked at Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman used to be the home of the Grand Ole Opery. They have since built a new facility for the Opery. I had only seen one other show at Ryman. It seemed a nice midsize place to see a show. Getting to see them live was going to be the fulfillment of a musical dream.
The dream was, unfortunately, a nightmare. Here beginneth the rant:
I ordered my tickets for the Oasis concert online in December. I was twice offered tickets with “obstructed view” by the TicketBastard (or Ticketmaster, for those of you yet to be fucked by them) automated system. I did not want to pay full price for seats with obstructed view. So I rejected those seats and kept trying until I got a pair of tickets that were not billed as obstructed view. If you are twice offered tickets with an obstructed view and the pair of tickets you purchase are not offered to you as “obstructed view,” what would you think? I think you would think what I thought.
We were wrong.
I had a feeling we were going to be in trouble when the opening band, The Redwalls, took the stage and I could barely see their keyboard player to one side and the drummer at the back of the stage. I knew I was in trouble because I have been to enough shows in my life to know the opening band only has a fraction of the stage room as the headliner gets.
The lights go down. “Fuckin’ in the Bushes” comes over the PA. This is a song they don’t actually perform but rather it is the song they play when they take the stage. As the band walks on stage it begins to dawn on me. I only see one microphone: Liam Gallagher’s. I do not even see the drum kit, let alone the drummer (Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s son, is drumming for Oasis on this tour). Is that Noel on the far left? No, that is Gem. And there is Andy. Where the fuck is Noel? Did he not come with them? Is he sick?
By this point the band is well into “Turn Up the Sun” and I still have not seen Noel. The chorus kicks in and I can hear Noel. I just cannot see him. I do not see his microphone. He is way the hell back there on the right… somewhere. These seats are shit.
For those of you who don’t know a whole lot about Oasis, they are a band from Manchester, England. The two Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, are the only original members remaining in the band and are the primary creative forces behind it. Noel has written 90 percent of the band’s song, sings lead vocal on perhaps one-third of them. He sings backing vocals on the songs he does not do lead and is the lead guitarist. Seeing an Oasis show in which you can see Liam, Andy and Gem but not Noel would be like going to see the Rolling Stones and only being able to see Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood but not being able to see Keith Richards and Charlie Watts.
I am 32 years of age. I should be able to handle life’s disappointments with a shrug of the shoulders and a chuckle, right? Let me assure you there we no chuckles. Not from me. Not from The Wife to Whom I Am Married. I will say she was a much better sport than I was. I was pissed. I was crushed. I have been listening to this band for more than a decade and finally seeing them live was supposed to be a triumphant experience. I could not have felt much more defeated. The disappointment begins to set in as the band plays “Lyla.” This is really happening. This fucking sucks.
The level of suckage is upped when we get to “The Importance of Being Idle” begins. “Idle” is the first of the songs Noel will sing lead during the course of the evening. Normally, when I am at a show I do not sit down the entire time the main act is on the stage. Knowing that I was not going to see Noel sing the song, I took my seat. All I could do was listen.
The music is the most important thing so at least being able to hear counts for something but I paid to see the concert. I have the CD at home. I have the song on my fucking iPod. I can hear it anywhere. I can hear it any time. I wanted to see Noel Gallagher sing it. I think I sat down every time he took lead vocal on a song with the exception of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” during the encores.
The set list featured eight of the 11 songs from last year’s Don’t Believe the Truth, four songs from Definitely Maybe, four from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, two from The Masterplan (which is their first b-sides collection), one from Heathen Chemistry and one cover. Be Here Now went unrepresented as did Standing on the Shoulder of Giants unless you count “Fuckin’ in the Bushes” which they did not actually play.
The songs on this set list (see below) would give the uninitiated a very good introduction to the band. The only aspect of the band’s personality absent from the set list is one of Noel’s acoustic songs and even there “The Masterplan” comes close. Plenty of my favorite Oasis songs are not present but most of the obvious ones are. This tour is, after all, promoting the Don’t Believe The Truth album. One would have to expect it to get more attention.
This is pretty similar to what has been played throughout the tour. Some nights “Supersonic” has been played instead of “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel.” Most Oasis fans would be disappointed to get “Abel” instead of “Supersonic.” I admit I probably like “Supersonic” a little better but I am glad “Abel” was played instead. I have heard live versions of “Supersonic” on their concert DVDs, B-sides, and live album Familiar to Millions. I know what it sounds like played live. “Abel” is a song not likely to remain part of live shows in the future. “Supersonic” is. If I ever get the nerve up to go see Oasis again I am pretty likely to hear “Supersonic.”
At the end of “My Generation,” Noel did peer from behind the wall and wave to those of us he never saw during the performance. I guess that was nice but it felt like the knife was jabbed in just a bit deeper all the same. I never did get to see Ringo’s kid.
All in all, this is a good show. Liam’s voice was in better shape than I expected considering this was a second show in as many days (Cincinnati the night before) and he has had a history of throat problems. “Morning Glory” smoked with an intensity I had not expected. The simple, pretty “Songbird” came off better live than I might have imagined. “Lyla” was heavier than its’ studio counterpart and “Turn Up the Sun” really was made to open a show.
It could have been such a great time. Maybe that is what hurts the most.
All the way home I debated whether or not to call TicketBastard to complain. The odds of them actually doing anything were remote at best. Why waste any more of my time and invest any more of my self in this disappointment then I already had? On the other hand, isn’t this what Corporate America wants? They have worked so hard to beat us all down that we simply hand over our cash whether or not the service is worth a damn. I went back and forth on this the entire ride home and woke up steaming about it the next morning. When I realized the argument I was having with myself would not end until I did something I decided to make the call.
Insult to injury.
The motherfucker on the phone practically laughed at my ass for calling to complain. Cocksucker! He told me I should have known the seats I had were obstructed view and that is was obvious.
I told him I looked at the seating chart at the time of purchase and had seen enough concerts in my life to know I did not have the best seats in the house. But if you are twice offered seats with obstructed view and then get offered seats that are not billed as obstructed view, why would I assume I had obstructed view seats? The seating chart only indicated I would be at the far right of the house, not that more than half the stage would be obscured from me where I was sitting. I told him he should be embarrassed to do business like that.
He was not embarrassed. He responded with a terse, “Can I help you with anything else?”
My answer: “You haven’t done anything for me yet. Let’s keep that record intact.” Click.
If this is the best my money can buy maybe I should quit my job and live for cigarettes and alcohol.
Here is the setlist:
- Fuckin’ in the Bushes*
- Turn Up The Sun
- Bring It On Down
- Morning Glory
- Cigarettes & Alcohol
- The Importance of Being Idle
- The Masterplan
- A Bell Will Ring
- Live Forever
- Mucky Fingers
- Champagne Supernova
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Star
- Guess God Thinks I’m Abel
- The Meaning of Soul
- Don’t Look Back in Anger
- My Generation