Everything was set up so perfectly. Three massive, homecoming gigs in one of the country’s most ideal and underused locations that, for whatever reason, hadn’t seen an event of this scale since the Pope’s visit in 1982. A strong supporting bill of bands that, almost certainly, owe their respective careers to the Gallaghers. And Oasis themselves, on the back of a decent album and still not quite old enough to be embarrassing, looking to topple previous landmark events in Mancunian music history at Maine Road and Knebworth.
Only the gods looking over Manchester could conspire to throw a spanner into the works. But there was (probably) no spanner-wielder, godly or otherwise, at fault when the power generator failed not once but twice. It was just one of those things.
Before all this, Mancunian Midlanders Kasabian had done what they do best, playing to their audience. As a live act they possess enough exhibitionism and stage presence to entertain a big, pissed-up crowd of beer-throwing revelers. All their hits were given a good airing, giving the eager and expectant crowd a good pre-Oasis buzz. The band were fortunate to catch the last remnants of the setting sun; as soon as night set in, any romantic notions that this crowd had about the wonderful British summertime were soon dashed by a wind-chill factor that verged on the Arctic.
Oasis took to the stage with Rock ‘N’ Roll Star, then stopped. Two generator faults, an abortive start to Lyla and a painfully long delay later and the show was back on. There’ll be inquiries and apportioning of blame afterwards, especially after the band guaranteed refunds. But the Gallaghers didn’t depart on the first helicopter flight out, preferring instead to stay and salvage what they could of the night.
So the turnaround began. Always dressed for the conditions, Liam tried his best to strut around the stage in his usual inimitable way, but there was something understandably apologetic about his cagouled demeanour. At times it seemed as though he was trying to hide behind his tambourine. Throughout the show he placed it to his face, creating an oversized Cheshire cat smile. Maybe he was just trying to hide his blushes. Apologetic too was Noel, who jokingly informed the crowd that a new, working generator had been purchased from the local Argos down the road. Liam tried his best to lighten the mood: “I came here to see the Pope. He was alright, but he didn’t have as many tunes as us.”
Due to the power outage, Oasis’ setlist was shorter than originally intended. The crowd didn’t seem to care much. With the stage bathed in a restrained but effective array of technicolour, a slightly truncated montage of household favourites old and new kept its resolute audience as happy as Larry. Wilfully bellowing out lyrics word-for-word and humming along to guitar solos, 70,000 people lapped up over 15 years of memories. This crowd grew into adulthood with this band.
Whatever you think of Noel’s lyrics you cannot stand at an Oasis concert, even with events conspiring in the most cruel fashion, and have a bad night. Honest and humble these locally-inspired anthems may be, but this honest, humble local crowd really wants for nothing more. Live Forever’s key change and Liam’s desperate “I wanna live foreveeerrrr!” pleas are still as affecting as they were back in 1994. Noel still sings Don’t Look Back In Anger and Masterplan with a palpable sense of pride. Slide Away’s heart still beats as strongly.
As the clock ticked past 11 and local residents’ complaint letters started to take shape, the only thing making this crowd want to go home was the frustrating, semi-autumnal weather. With one final apology, Oasis left the stage to a victorious cheer. Despite the generator and the weather, these Mancunian heroes were in no mood to let anyone down tonight.