Live Report: Oasis

Patriot Center, Fairfax, Va., January 9, 1998

Rare is the Oasis show when the Brothers Gallagher aren't the surliest folksin the house. Swearing, spitting, whining, fighting -- you name it, they do it on stage. But at Friday's sold-out concert at the Washington, D.C.-area Patriot Center, it wasn't the bad boys from Manchester who were killing the good-time buzz, but a young, hell-raising crowd that seemed more intent on crowd-surfing and hurling debris than listening to a well-behaved (really!)\band that's finally taking its live performances seriously.

Frustrated by the inattentive mob, Oasis brought its usual set to a slightly early end -- a most unfortunate early exit, for those who cared. From the opening number, Oasis pounded out their derivative brand of growling pop with equal parts abandon and precision and volume and clarity -- blends their concerts have mostly lacked. Maybe the band is tightening up out of concern --"Be Here Now" has failed to set cash registers ablaze on this side of the pond. Then again, maybe they just got tired of sounding like shit.

When lead singer/rabble-rouser Liam Gallagher addressed the crowd in his guttural accent (sample quote: "Eee ow ock err ess!"), it was damn near impossible to understand what he was talking about. But during the songs when he postured at the mike with hands behind back and chin upturned, his piercing singing made the new "Stand by Me," the early hit "Supersonic," and the transcendent "Wonderwall" ring out like the rock & roll confections they are. For all his boorish antics, Liam can also be charming as hell, and he wandered around the stage, staring bemused into the audience like a curious gorilla at the zoo. Sure, he's no Jagger, but despite his reputation for zero stage presence, he's no Hope Sandoval, either.

Liam's charisma aside, the evening's prolonged highlight was brother Noel's mid-show acoustic set, which included "Don't Go Away," "Cast No Shadow," "Whatever," and a cover of David Bowie's "Heroes," which the singer prefaced by saying, "This one's for all the people who come to concerts and fucking behave themselves." (The band also took this time to get in a soft dig at U2: As Noel sat centerstage armed with just guitar and British smile, the image of a gaudy disco ball was projected on a screen behind him.)

Oasis closed the set with "It's Getting Better (Man!!)" and an eight-minute "Champagne Supernova" -- both injected with plenty of impressive guitar warbling from Noel -- then returned for an abbreviated "Acquiesce," a B-side that has become a staple of their live performances. Previous concerts have ended with current single "All Around the World," but not tonight: As the band headed off the stage, Liam pointed to the swirling mosh pit up front and\shouted, "You don't fucking deserve us!"