Oasis, Alberta Cross

Tim Miller 20/10/2008

I don't think that the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) is high on the list of essential venues when artists do UK shows. The current Oasis tour doesn't even visit Manchester; clearly this is a string of warm up gigs, a precursor to what looks to be an extensive, bombastic UK arena tour in 2009. While those dates will no doubt have the capacity crowds, the spectacular visuals and the classic setlists, it does, nevertheless, mean that Oasis are in the process of showcasing the cream of their new material for the first time.

Alberta Cross, tonight's support, are a bluesy five-piece, somewhat lazily trotting through toned-down rock in an early Kings of Leon mould. Several of the crowd immediately fail to warm to them, though being as they are your typical lager-swilling Oasis fans, they (the fans) are largely ignored and Alberta Cross make it through their set with their lives, and their pride, no doubt, in tact.

The gig is running to time for a change, and it's barely gone 9pm when the lights dim and the roar goes up from the baying fans. All five of Oasis - complete with new drummer - plus a hidden sixth keys player, swagger on to the BIC's stage (incidentally the very boards I trod when I graduated from University: there's a claim) and they kick off with early favourite 'Rock 'n' Roll Star'.

If there is one person in the world who doesn't need to tell people he is a rock 'n' roll star, it's Liam Gallagher. Looking gaunt, detached and slightly cold in an all-black sweater, scarf and leather jacket, Liam plays up to his hard-man reputation with an “Alright, fuckers?” greeting, impregnable sunglasses and features that only rearrange to sing lyrics everyone else also knows the words to.

There is little, really, to say about Oasis' main set: it featured classics like 'The Masterplan', a Noel-crooned highlight; the two previous album's star turns 'Layla' and 'The Importance of Being Idle', as well as 'Wonderwall' (dated), 'Slide Away' (Oasis by numbers) and '(What's the Story) Morning Glory', a much more edgy throwback to those golden days. Naturally 'The Shock of the Lightning' is served up early on, already a 'must' live and sing-along for the crowd - obligatory Beatles reference in the chorus lyrics - and peppered throughout are new songs from 'Dig Out Your Soul' whose names are yet to permeate my knowledge. To the Gallaghers' credit, the songs seem to have a little more depth to them, a little experimental bite, in structure more than tone mind, as though even the band themselves have got bored of churning out the standard 'Oasis' rock fodder.

What is more interesting among the big chord changes and gritty twang of Liam's voice is the band's onstage conduct. While new for 2008 drummer Chris Sharrock is a hub of power in the central shadows of the Oasis collage, the other four more experienced members offer next to nothing on the eye. Andy Bell and Gem Archer, bass and guitars respectively, shuffle around a couple of yards, while Noel doesn't move from his inner sanctum of pedals and monitors, save to swap guitars from time to time. They certainly aren't the yuppie ruffians of the mid '90s anymore. Most bizarre, though, is Liam (again): when he is not singing lyrics he stands to the left of his mic, motionlessly glaring broodily into the crowd, and when Noel is singing, Liam doesn't even bother to remain on stage. While many bands releasing albums this year are throwing themselves and their equipment around the place in performing, Oasis seem content to simply stand there and let the music do the work.

And if, musically, Oasis were not so type-cast and predictable, being as they are the established, glitteringly-decorated band who for 15 years have dominated the spotlight, the charts and headlines, you could perhaps forgive the brothers Gallagher for assuming they'd earned the right to be so disinterested live. But in reality it is not until the encore that the band actually come close to sounding like a posse of self-proclaimed British rock kings.

First, Don't Look Back in Anger is dispatched, this time a delicate arrangement of acoustic guitar and tambourine rhythm, Liam disappearing backstage for the duration, and also for the following newie 'Falling Down, a strong contender for a next single from Dig Out Your Soul. Liam saunters back on as the band roll back the years for a classy rendition of 'Champagne Supernova', before the best moment of the night - and not because it's the last. A storming, eight-minute, house-bringing-down version of 'I am the Walrus', Liam singing from the heart for what seems the first time, lyrics belonging to his cherished John Lennon, the band vigorously jamming the Beatles classic's outro, and the crowd joining in for the “wooooooo!”'s to counter Liam's “I am the eggman, they are the eggmen!”.

Don't mistake for one minute, however that the frontman or the band have evolved uncharacteristically into eggmen from rock 'n' roll stars, and the Gallaghers plus players leave the stage with bare acknowledgement of the ecstatic reception they're being offered. Many of the paying customers tonight won't care about, or even register that farewell (to be fair, not a lot of acts of Oasis' size come down to Bournemouth) but the fact is while Oasis might be a landmark band in British rock history, performed live their musical legacy does not generate praise of a similarly suitable stature. Coming out of a gig can often leave you with a sense of owed debt, but this is usually due to the gratitude felt towards the artist for making and performing music that you love. Tonight however, despite the back catalogue of definitive rock anthems from the last decade, I slide away feeling (against my will) that Oasis have actually done me a favour by performing; that my 40 ticket, along with those of some six thousand other patrons, simply formed a tiresome obligation for Oasis to have to honour.

Photo: Natalie Gibbs (2008)