There was a time in our history when the masses were into really good bands. Tear-stained, screaming young girls would pull their hair out waiting at the airport for John, Paul, George and Ringo. Radio stations played politically “difficult” music from Bob Dylan in its entirety. And people listened.
Everyone’s quick to say those days are over. The kids are only into prepackaged yellow no. 5 cheese slices of talent, they say. It’s not their fault — it’s force-fed to them, washed down with a sugary, caffeinated beverage and pacified with a cheap plastic Disney-themed toy.
Not entirely so. And everyone who was at Oasis’ Detroit show earlier this year knows it. The band rocked the mop tops off the neo-invasion legions at the sold-out State Theatre performance. Huge video screens and a soundboard that could probably launch a spaceship furthered Oasis’ “rock ’n’ roll star” status. The band’s music crosses almost every barrier that exists in this sub-sub-subcategorized and oversaturated culture, where taste is specific and anything that doesn’t fit inside your comfort zone is shite. Oasis is a rock ’n’ roll band. Sure, the albums are polished and pretty — and I was just as sick as everyone else (maybe more) when “Live Forever” was in the every-other-song radio rotation — but they also house an unkempt Sex Pistols belligerence. And this attitude is ever apparent onstage, when flames roar from Liam’s stuck-out chest and spikes shoot from Noel’s guitar.
You knew a live album was coming, especially with the talent of the new lineup, including Gem on rhythm guitar and bassist Andy Bell alongside Noel, Liam and Alan White on drums. Recorded at the two packed-to-capacity Wembley Stadium shows last summer, Familiar to Millions is the two-CD sound track to a DVD and VHS account of “Britain’s finest rock ’n’ roll band at the peak of their form.” The recording not only radiates the arrogance that would lead somebody to print the above statement on the back cover. It exudes the band’s live dynamism and perpetuates the drama of musicians constantly on edge.
“Turn the fookin’ light off … ’ere you go. Not that fookin’ ’ard,” Liam jeers to the crew before coursing through a swaggering version of “Cigarettes and Alcohol.” Then he says quietly, “This is for all the people in the front row.” Of course, that would be considerate — so following that statement comes: “Not you or you, but, yeah, you.” Sure, this crudeness and the brothers’ personal problems are exploited, but you can tell the fans aren’t only there to get spit on and see the band assaulted by bottles (though a live album just wouldn’t be the same without it). Other highlights include an emotionally biting and sincere version of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” You can’t escape the honesty and exhaustion in “Rock ’n’ Roll Star.” And hearing the band tear right through chants of O-A-SIS! O-A-SIS with “Fuckin’ in the Bushes” at the start of the first night is priceless.
Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.