Beyond Knebworth: Five Gigs That Defined Oasis

Live highlights from the iconic group...

With the release of Liam Gallagher’s live album ‘Knebworth 22’ which captures the former Oasis rocker’s acclaimed solo gigs at Knebworth last summer, it got us thinking that whilst the original Oasis Knebworth gig was nothing short of iconic, there have been some pretty legendary live performances that are integral to the Oasis story that really should be revisited.

At the height of their supersonic fame, no one else could touch the Mancunian massive when it came to their smorgasbord of fantastic songs (which included some pretty epic B-sides), their inimitable style as well as their rock ‘n’ roll notoriety.

Whilst their studio albums were impressive, their live performances were put simply, out of this world. Being at an Oasis gig was something of an unforgettable and biblical experience (trademark LG!). Indeed, they (sun) shiiiiiiinnnneeed onstage. (Too far? OK!)

From their rock ‘n’ roll swagger to their ability to perform anthemic hits that were the soundtrack to our lives, Oasis on a live stage were infinitely hard to beat.

Emma Harrison has curated five gigs that defined Oasis – did your favourite make the list?

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, 1993

The gig that nearly didn’t happen. Picture the scene, a group of aspiring musicians from Manchester hire a van and persuade their accompanying friends to chip in with petrol money with the intention of getting on the bill at Glaswegian club King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

But, said bill is full. There have been various versions of events from the members of the band at the time, but the most consistent story is that Oasis ‘negotiated’ their way on to the bill.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and Alan McGee of Creation Records who was going through a break up at the time was meeting his sister at King Tut’s and they had planned to go see his friend in the band Sister Lovers too. He made the life-changing decision to go down early where he spotted a group of lads at a nearby table who caught his eye. 

McGee recalls seeing Liam for the first time saying that “one of them was dressed in white and looked brilliant, like a natural star”. Liam and the rest of the band then took to the stage and this seismic turn of events not only changed Alan and the band’s lives, but changed the course of history too.

Oasis were allowed to perform four songs prior to the first support act taking to the stage which included ‘Rock and Roll Star’, ‘Bring It On Down’, ‘Up In The Sky’, and a cover of ‘I Am The Walrus.

Alan said that it was the cover of ‘I Am The Walrus’ that made him “absolutely certain I wanted to sign them”. He collared the band after their performance and asked if they had a record deal and they subsequently got signed. Fast forward just one year later and three of those four songs performed that night made it onto their stunning debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’.

Without that King Tut’s gig and that pivotal moment with Alan McGee, would Oasis still have been signed? Definitely Maybe, but certain things are meant to be and their gig at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut certainly set them on their path to stardom. This gig and their unexpected appearance at it, is a pretty stellar lesson on the importance of self belief and perseverance which the Oasis boys had in abundance.

Southend Cliffs Pavilion, 1995 

In 1995 there were countless live performances from Oasis including a stellar set at Earls Court just after the release of ‘Morning Glory’, but you can’t deny the brilliance of the band playing at the lesser-known venue of the Southend Cliffs Pavilion for a one-off intimate gig that was recorded live and released on VHS.

The one-off gig was recorded on April 17th included performances of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, and ‘Live Forever’ which effortlessly sat alongside ‘Columbia’, ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, an acoustic version of ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Married With Children’.

This felt like it was the band at their rawest and truest form, and this was an accomplished and energetic set which also included ‘Headshrinker’ and ‘Slide Away’.

Live By The Sea – a pun on the track ‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’ was also one of the last gigs that would see Tony McCarroll play drums with the band. He would later be replaced with Alan White after various altercations with Noel Gallagher after Noel felt that his drumming wasn’t quite up to scratch. 

McCarroll would subsequently sue his old bandmates, a row eventually settled outside of court, but showed that despite Tony being one of the founding members of the band that the juggernaut of Oasis would stop for no one. 

Maine Road, 1996

Manchester. A homecoming and Maine Road is quite possibly the pinnacle for the band and the same goes for the fans too. There is a reason why their live DVD There And Then includes the barnstorming performances from both the aforementioned Earls Court gig and Maine Road. It just wasn’t an ordinary gig, this was an unrelenting and visceral rock ‘n’ roll experience.

In 1996, Oasis ruled the world and their second album ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ (which had been released the previous October) had propelled Oasis to stratospheric levels of fame. Whilst 1996 is probably better known for those two history-making nights at Knebworth in the August where 2.5 million people applied for tickets, Oasis were still making milestone memories at the home of Manchester City FC.

What makes this gig stand out is the setlist which was one of the tightest setlists that the band ever had. Even Alan McGee commented that “this was rock as a religious spectacle” and described it as the “perfect Oasis show”. 

Was he right? The setlist was nothing short of spectacular and included track after track of big hitters and deep cuts which included ‘The Swamp Song’, ‘Some Might Say’, ‘Round Are Way’, ‘The Masterplan’, a rabble-rousing rendition of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ and a partial version of the much underrated ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?’ which was aborted after less than 90 seconds.

Liam got through one line then endearingly exclaimed “I forgot the words!” then quipped that the next line was “I wanna be a spaceman but can’t afford a space suit!” he then segued into warning the sold out crowd not to “buy your gear from Johnny Roadhouse”. 

Classic Liamisms aside, what can’t be denied is the raw energy and chemistry that the band had on that stage. Even Noel Gallagher with his Union-flag emblazoned guitar defined the Maine Road gig as something that “will never be repeated”. He was right – this was one of the gigs that further solidified their reputation as the biggest band in the world and Knebworth hadn’t even happened yet. There’s no doubt that 1996 was undoubtedly the pinnacle of Oasis’ career.

GMEX, 1997

Noel Gallagher had always been inspired by U2, and the Irish rock quartet’s reputation for putting on a full scale show in the early nineties really set the tone for band to deliver a showstopping performance with props and stunts galore.

As part of the ‘Be Here Now’ tour, Oasis really pulled out the stops, and no more so at the GMEX in Manchester where they emerged (Dr Who style) from a red telephone box. This was the band’s last world tour with Bonehead and Guigsy with both of them leaving the band in 1999 – just three weeks apart. This was a huge blow to the remaining members of the band with even Noel remarking that they had “been left holding the shite sandwich”.

In addition to the red telephone box, there were other items that were included in the ‘Be Here Now’ album artwork. Leading up to the start of the show, a member of the band’s entourage would appear dressed as a butler complete with a top hat to incite the crowd to scream and shout before the band appeared from the phone box to ‘Be Here Now’.

It was a vehicle to showcase the songs from ‘Be Here Now’ – an album which had drawn (occasionally unfavourable comparisons to their first two albums) which included ‘Fade In‐Out’, ‘Magic Pie’, ‘The Girl In A Dirty Shirt’ and ‘All Around The World’, as well as material from their previous two albums. 

They also performed the beautiful ‘To Be Someone’ and a cover of ‘Help’ and David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. The GMEX was also the first time they played ‘Don’t Go Away’ live and it was dedicated to the woman who has always been a mainstay in their lives – their mother Peggy.

Oasis’ live shows were fast becoming iconic gigs, but whilst there were many bells and whistles, what remained the same was the stellar songwriting, Noel’s sublime guitar work and the vulnerability and emotion from Liam which further cemented his reputation as one of the greatest rock n roll frontman of his generation.

Rock En Seine, 2009

The gig that never happened. In an exact contrast to the gig that started it all at King Tut’s, the appearance in Paris could have been an absolute showstopper – but it wasn’t meant to be.

It wasn’t a knee jerk decision for Noel to quit Oasis in Paris, relations had been on a decline for a long time. You could argue that the days and weeks leading up to the Parisian festival was the final nail in the coffin.

Before their performance at Rock En Seine, Liam had left in the middle of a press conference before the show and started swinging a guitar “like an axe” around backstage. Noel took the decision to take the guitar out of his hands and smashed it up to ‘put it out of its misery’ before he took the decision to walk away.

For Noel, this incident was the last straw and he cancelled the show and all subsequent dates on the tour announcing that he had quit Oasis just a few days afterwards. There was no perfunctory evasive statement, Noel pinned his colours to the mast saying: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer”.

Noel had commented that even as his driver pulled away that he didn’t feel the weight disappearing from his shoulders or any semblance of relief. He knew that ‘there was a shitstorm coming’. Oasis had essentially imploded – the biggest band in the world were no more.

Did he have regrets at not doing the gig and finishing the tour? Perhaps, but the writing had been on the wall for a long time and Noel leaving the band wasn’t his first rodeo having quit (and returning) twice prior over various disputes.

Even a few months prior, Noel had prophetically commented that maybe “life would be easier without Oasis” and that Liam was “the angriest man you’ll ever meet”. Despite having the whole world at their fingertips, Oasis were no more and the disbanding shocked the music world and left fans devastated. The Gallaghers’ relationship had always been famously vitriolic, but relations had worsened so much between them that they had been travelling separately and they were clearly fed up with each other. 

As for the notorious guitar – a red 1960 Gibson 355, it sold for £325,000 at auction last year in 2022 and has become part of music history. Similarly, the gig that never was has also become part of music history too. Noel Gallagher admitted that he does regret not playing Oasis‘ final show there, commenting that it would have been a “monumental, mad fucking Oasis gig”, but Noel quitting the band was always going to happen and if it hadn’t been Paris, it would have happened somewhere else further down the line.

Completing the Paris gig would have been a sensational way to end Oasis‘ glittering tenure as one of the biggest bands in history, but just like the Glasgow gig that helped get the band signed in the first place, some things come down to fate. As Noel says himself “it had to happen” and whilst rumours of a reunion are always in the mix, the enduring legacy of Oasis including their dynamic and accomplished live performances will always Live Forever.

Liam Gallagher’s live album ‘Knebworth ’22’ is out now.

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