One day in 1996, I queued up outside a travel agents in Stevenage Shopping Centre and bagged myself two tickets to see Oasis at Knebworth. It’s a claim to fame to be able to say that I was a part of history, but the event left me with the realisation that I’m a bit of a lightweight festival goer. Oasis bought the famous Manchester weather with them, four seasons in one day, leaving me soaked, sunburnt and suffering from exposure by the time the big act hit the stage. It was my first encounter with the nastiness of the contents of a portaloo, and not wishing to revisit that area of dreadfulness, I didn’t drink sufficient water and added dehydration to my list of gig ailments.
Moving on twenty years, Noel remains one of the leaders of British music because he continues to make excellent music and is an extremely clever man. The band name is smart – yes it’s the leader of Oasis, with a band, but not the same band that were so mouthy and knocked seven shades out of each other, which got tedious over time. The gig is delivered without anyone walking off the stage, showing far more respect for the audience than in old Oasis days and the band members actually look like they’re enjoying what they’re doing. Noel exudes confidence and he knows what his audience want – he’s not shy of putting plenty of Oasis songs on the set list, and gets it completely right with (of course) Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger, but also fan favourites Digsy’s Diner (has anyone else used “lasagne” in a song lyric?) and The Masterplan.
He also does a fine line in banter and a few songs in it was tempting to say, “Go on Noel, say something funny.” Fortunately his attention was drawn to three men at the front holding a banner saying, “Marry me Noel.”
“How very modern,” remarked Noel in his droll tone. “Where are you from?”
The reply of Hampstead caused much amusement as “Our kid” can be seen jogging there. The suitors were declined on the basis that they had polo necked shirts and side partings. Noel knows how to crush. He had harsh words for Portsmouth fans after some footy banter, “You are f*cking shit, so you can shut up.” There were signs of a potentially softer Noel when he dedicated a song to his Missus, but that was followed with, “Who’d have thought she’d marry someone as brilliant as me?” You have to imagine that Mrs G must spend quite a bit of her life rolling her eyes and clipping him around the ear.
The stage show and lighting may not be as dazzling as other current acts and Noel is not interested in busting moves, but importantly the new material stands up alongside the old. Tracks like Riverman, Ballad of the Mighty I, The Mexican and AKA What A Life are a superb testament to the fact that the Gallagher phenomena, which spawned Britpop, was based on the fact that Noel was, is and will continue to be, a man of the people who writes great songs. Heaven knows he could easily rest on his laurels and live an easy life if he wanted to, he’s a family man now after all. But he doesn’t because music is his life, it’s what he is. When the lights were turned on the audience singing Don’t Look back In Anger at full voice (surely even the impossible to impress and seemingly stoney-hearted main man must have been moved?) it’s as if twenty years had passed in the blink of an eye. And this time I left the gig feeling ten times fitter and healthier and way more appreciative of the experience than my Knebworth trauma.
Musicwaffle’s official photographer for the event: @_sararusso