Noel Gallagher - NME - 16th February 2002
He really is. The badge on his denim jacket reads 'I Love Rock'N'Roll' and it's a message that he underlines during ten minutes of breathless conversation. "I did an interview with the (London) Evening Standard the other day and the journalist was going, '(Affects bored, posh media whine) Yeah, but rock'n'roll is so boring right now.' I'm like, 'You what!? This is the best time in music for years. For fucking years!' If I was a kid right now, I'd be so excited. I've heard about six brilliant albums in the last few months that are better than anything that's been out in the last six years. Really!
"It's unbelievable, man! I just got that Soundtrack Of Our Lives album, that's mega. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, can't wait to see The Coral, The Hives are fucking... I was saying to Andy Bell he should've stayed in Sweden with his missus (Bell's wife, Idha, is Swedish), there's something going on over there if you've got bands coming out as good as Soundtrack and The Hives."
And where does Oasis 2002 fit into this exciting new dawn? Will the new, as yet untitled, fifth album raise the standard further? "Well," he considers, his head cocked to one side, "it is good. It's very hard for me to describe, you know, it's not like a massive departure. It's still Oasis, we're still a rock'n'roll band. But I reckon if we were a new band and this was our first album people would be pretty blown away. It'd be, like, 'OK, well, that's better than anything else I've heard for a while'.
"What's really changed is that I'm no longer the main songwriter. I'm one of the songwriters and the best songwriter may well be Liam. His three songs are absolutely mega. I mean, really. You wait until you hear them, people are going to be very, very surprised at how good he is. There's also Gem and Noel's head cocks to one side and he looks at the guy. His eyes are saying, 'How the fuck did you get into a closed soundcheck?' His mouth, however, is saying, 'OK, great, why don't you send your tape to the Big Brother offices at this address?' Then he makes his apologies and goes to sit in the centre of the RAH to give BRMC's soundcheck his undivided attention. The guy with the flyer looks elated: this was his big break.
Two disjointed songs later and Noel is striding back through the crash barriers and up onto the stage. He's not happy with BRMC's sound, not happy at all. "No, bastards," he scowls. "Can't have the fucking support band sounding better than Oasis." He may've fallen back in love with modern music, but that famous Gallagher competitive spirit runs deep. Even in 2002, Noel Gallagher has one eye on that championship belt. Oasis are back.
Back on the Road Again - Live Mayhem with Oasis
The bollocks, mate. No doubt about it. That's Oasis. All these new bands don't do anything for me. Give me Noel'n'Liam any day of the week!" It's 8pm on a drizzly Monday evening in the concrete crater that is Watford High Street, and deep in the throng of the Artichoke pub, a mere two minutes' swagger from tonight's gig at the Colosseum, Lee, 22, is pumping change into the jukebox and holding forth on what he considers to be Oasis' appeal in 2002. Judging by his tousled Liam-esque locks and the non-stop stream of Burnage-rock that follows ('Slide Away', 'Morning Glory', 'Champagne Supernova'), his commitment to their cause is unwavering. "The last time I saw 'em was the Saturday at Wembley," he enthuses, wide-eyed, before sauntering off to continue his pre-show drinking ritual. "And that was mental!" Fact is, that glorious, chaotic second night at Wembley in July 2000 was pretty much the last time anybody clapped eyes on Oasis in the UK, if you discount the handful of 'club' shows which served as part of their spurious ten-year 'Noise And Confusion' celebrations last October. That night, with Noel's dream of playing the perfect Wembley show in tatters and proceedings rounded off by Liam asking the entire 70,000 strong crowd outside for a rumble, you got the feeling that Oasis' primal appeal simply wasn't built to exist in a new century rapidly getting crowded out with neurotic balladeers intent on sharing their bi-millennial blues.
To Watford then, 18 months on. Gazza, so word has it, has organised for half the Everton squad to be present tonight, while Frank Skinner, (ahem) Nick Heyward and Chris Moyles jostle for position in a balcony already creaking from the presence of girlfriends Nicole Appleton and Sara MacDonald, mother Peggy and brother Paul Gallagher. The static of expectation is palpable. Having exhibited two new songs, 'The Hindu Times' and Gem's 'Hung In A Bad Place' at the October shows, expectation is rife that large chunks of the new album - reputedly entitled, arm, 'Heathen Chemistry' - will be on parade. The lights go down, the roar wells up and the demented hoodoo of'Fuckin' In The Bushes' extracts the band from the wings. Liam, disguised as a bedraggled snow commando in a vast white parka, assumes a sergeant-majorly position at the lip of the stage. Through a brain-crunching opening salvo of 'Go Let It Out', 'Columbia', 'Morning Glory' and 'Acquiesce', he remains motionless, occasionally loping over to whichever corner of the crowd is hollering the incessant 'Lee-am! Lee-am!' mantra the loudest.
Then, while they await his verdict on their efforts (a curt nod, at best), he returns to his original position and shuffles from foot to toot, a feral middleweight eager to settle old scores. For a man who does little but stand still he has an inexplicable capacity to move people. "This is a new one," he finally announces to a huge roar. "You just can't wait, can ya?" The drums roll. It sounds a bit like 'Supersonic'. Then Liam, clearly confused, starts singing. Shit. It is Supersonic'. 'The Hindu Times' materialises two songs later, when a swirling raga-rock signature starts up. If God, on a particularly slow day, ordered his minions to construct a rock'n'roll anthem perfectly pitched between the idiot-rumble of Kiss, the unholy Eastern-splurge of Led Zeppelin and the righteous fury of Oasis, then this would surely be the end result.
Liam then launches into a vocal which sounds for all the world like: "I get so high/I just can't beat if" before a chorus of, gulp, "God gave me a soul/You know I'll rock'n'roll!". You could make it up, but it wouldn't be as good. If this truly was the planned single scrapped by an ultra-self-ritical Noel last year, then what he would have done at the mastering of 'Who Feels Love?' in his current mood is anybody's guess. From there on in, Watford is theirs. 'Gas Panic!' gets elasticated with a strung-out 'Cold Turkey-esque coda, while the new 'Hung In A Bad Place' gets roared home thanks to a striking similarity to The Stooges' 'No Fun'. As for 'Live Forever' and 'Slide Away', well, Liam could have played them on the spoons and they would still have worked.
Noel takes the opportunity to address his adoring public. "What the fuck are we doing in Watford?" he growls. "Does it only ever get interesting here when Man City show up?" As Mancunian love poetry goes, it's as close to a proposal of marriage Watford is ever likely to get, and the Colosseum roars back its acceptance.
Liam lopes off absent-mindedly for 'She's Electric' and, on returning, the band knock out'Champagne Supernova', 'Rock'N'Roll Star', 'Don't Look Back In Anger' and 'I Am The Walrus', crowd pleasers despite themselves. The musical super-tanker that is Oasis is back in the water, then, but tonight, with Liam so subdued, it still feels a little like someone's left it on auto-pilot. Sleep, halfway through a two-day Oasis binge, is fitful. Visions of a Rock Idol final where a drunken Liam is disqualified and Simon Cowell is shaking hands with a victorious Chris Martin mouthing the words 'Hello, Mum!' to camera fill the mind. In a cold sweat, NME heads down to the Royal Albert Hall in London to discover Planet Oasis has just had an upgrade. The stage makes last night's look like a ripple in the carpet. Commissioners in charcoal slacks serve Cristal Champagne and pate de foie gras to private box-dwelling swells. Bullet-headed city types squeeze into pristine cubicles and take linedancing to unforeseen levels. A troupe of Italian Liam-a-likes in shades trails past, solitary Nicole-ette in tow. "Where iz zee bar?" they intone, as threateningly as their broken English allows.
A pea-souper of epic proportions, preventing anyone from seeing anything, forms over the stage. This is the cue for support band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to skulk among us. The sheer effort that goes into their listless drone rock ennui is staggering. "I just don't know where to stop", they groan at one point. You said it. What's to stop them?
A tiny, barrel-chested man known to our forebears as Roger Daltrey scampers across the stage. "We gotta special treat for ya... an acoustic set from Mr Richard Ashcroft!" he bellows, in broadest Cockney, and knock me dahn wiv a fevver, there the shadow-less one is, sauntering onstage with a smile as wide as Wigan and launching into 'Lucky Man', which has the girls squirming with unrestrained delight and the boyfriends glazed over in an 'Urban Hymns' reverie.
For three short minutes you can remember why you once believed Richard Ashcroft's old band could cancel World Debt, jam with the aliens, obliterate Boyzone and still fly home, Icarus-like, for elevenses. It doesn't last. New song 'Until I Get There' is a belter in the 'The Drugs Don't Work' mould, culminating, inevitably, in the lines "I know you can find it in bottles/I know you can find it in pills", but things plunge rapidly downhill. Halfway through a mid-tempo 'Nature Is The Law' he gives up the ghost and mumbles "that's just a snippet for you there..." He then launches into an out-of-tune 'History' which, sensibly, he abandons while singing the words "sometimes you wish you rehearsed more for gigs". The astral voyager of '93 seems a long way off. Wisely, Richard embarks on 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' but, having scuttled his previous two numbers, he's forced to make it last for several hours. Afterwards, the Liam-a-likes are huddled in emergency counsel, baffled by it all. "Ee's sing-ing was total-lee flat!" groans one, correctly.
Oasis emerge in fighting mood. Gone is the half-cocked shuffle of 24 hours ago. "This is gonna be proper!" Liam drawls, snow-gear traded for a three-quarter length leather coat. Tonight, physical movement ceases to be a problem. He prowls. He leers. He even saunters over to a beaming Noel occasionally (the two studiously ignored each other the previous night) to share his thoughts on, one presumes, world issues. The blanket bombing comes in the same formation as last night, except with added zeal. 'Morning Glory' and 'Supersonic' receive summary dismissals, while 'The Hindu Times', improves with every play. When they get to 'Hung In A Bad Place', a fan attempts to engage Noel in conversation about their new material. "Look, I'd love to talk, but I'm fookin' busy here!" he announces, as the pop-art thrash descends.
The encore of 'Don't Look Back In Anger' is temporarily delayed as Paul Weller is unglued from the bar, while a final 'I Am The Walrus' has Liam, now modelling a red towel draped over his shoulders, back in bullfighter mode, ready to take the world on again, just like at Wembley all those months ago. Sigh. We've missed 'em. Radiohead may be cleverer. Travis may have sweeter melodies. Christ, as it is, Coldplay may, in the long run, outsell them. No matter. Tonight Oasis are back with us and all is well in the world. On this form, still, no-one can touch 'em and their heathen chemistry. Lee from Watford would surely approve. The bollocks, mate. No doubt about it.