This Album of the Week will be a deluxe edition. I am going to cover an album, Blu-Ray and documentary. It was a few weeks back that the entire package of the Oasis – Knebworth album and film came to retail shelves and now it’s time to get into the astonishing amount of material within.
Oasis – Live At Knebworth
Released November 19, 2021 via Big Brother Records
My Favorite Tracks – Slide Away, Acquiesce, Columbia
The official live record compiles the entire setlist of both shows, though this compilation borrows from both shows to make one record. I suppose a completionist might have rather have both shows in full as an audio offering, though this stitched-together effort does a fine job of showcasing the gigs.
The songs are presented in order from the shows, the setlist did not deviate between the two nights. Almost all of the songs are slightly truncated versions of their studio counterparts – the structure is verse-chorus-verse-chorus and close, things were kept simple for the massive concerts. Set opener Columbia loses over a minute from its studio runtime, and everything besides Champagne Supernova has a bit of fluff trimmed off.
The song selection is almost completely spot on – 5 songs from the debut album, 8 from the seminal What’s The Story…, 5 non-album cuts and 2 tracks from the band’s next release Be Here Now. There is only one glaring omission from the chosen set and that’s a point addressed in the documentary – Rock N’ Roll Star is a perfect tune for the energetic festival performance. For some reason the band wasn’t playing it at all during this touring cycle.
For this massive scale performance the band would necessarily leave some nuance behind and put more force behind the musical presentation. Even with that, songs like The Masterplan and Wonderwall get string arrangements to accompany them, and horns join in on Round Are Way (which also sees the chorus of Up In The Sky sneak in at the end). Even the melancholy Cast No Shadow translates well to the stadium-sized performance.
If any one song loses a bit of something to the noise of Knebworth, it’s Don’t Look Back In Anger. Noel simply turns up his guitar and slams through the song. While the rendition is fine, it is a song that could have benefited from an arrangement of some sort. It is not a large disappointment but it is a note to be made out of the set.
Of course, Oasis has no shortage of hard hitting tracks that translate very well on the big stage. Supersonic, Cigarettes And Alcohol, Some Might Say and Morning Glory all stand out in the noise and power of 125,000 people. And the second song Acquiesce, a celebrated B-side that probably suffers from not having a proper album release, is an especially on-fire version of the song. Liam’s snarl through the verses is beautifully matched by Noel’s more delicate delivery of the chorus and the song absolutely stands out in the Knebworth gigs.
One track stands out above the others from Knebworth. It has been long known among Oasis diehards that the Sunday performance of Slide Away is perhaps the definitive version of that song and many consider it the band’s best live offering ever. While I haven’t checked out other landmark gigs enough to make such a determination, I will say that Slide Away absolutely hits on this live set. It is a complete monster performance, that much is certain.
In the end, the choice to piece an official Knebworth album from both nights works well. The diehards who wish to have both nights on audio probably already do digitally or in bootleg form, so it’s not a disservice to the product to patch this set together from both nights. Many celebrated live albums have gone that route in order to deliver the best possible experience.
And it’s nice to finally have one of the band’s historic gigs in official form. Oasis only released one live album during their tenure while Knebworth and other massively-celebrated concerts have been relegated to bootleg or YouTube status. A superfan will of course hope that Earl’s Court, Maine Road and other landmark gigs from this and other tours will get official releases in the future, but whether or not that happens is impossible to say.
The video presentation of Knebworth offers the theatrical documentary as well as both concert sets in full. While we did not get an complete official audio package, the video side does deliver with both nights.
The footage does a good job of joining high definition content with more grainy film from 1996. I didn’t have a problem with how the video played out, it was all put together well. There isn’t a lot else that needs to be said – both shows are here for anyone who wants to get into them.
The centerpiece of the Knebworth package is the documentary filmed earlier this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the gigs. It was an historic occasion for Oasis and so Noel chose to honor the memory with this deluxe offering.
The film is very well-done and does not offer a dry run through historical facts, nor is it some hollow puff piece that kisses the band’s ass while not offering anything of real value. The filmmakers chose to let the fans tell the story of Knebworth and it’s a choice that makes this documentary stand out from many other music films.
The film runs through the build up to the concerts – the pain of getting tickets, finding a way to the shows, and getting on the grounds and up front when there. There is no central narrator – most of the story is told by the fans, while Noel and Bonehead also contribute thoughts. Liam only speaks briefly at the end, perhaps owing to how shitfaced he reportedly was on the night between the two shows. Also of note is that no modern-day footage of anyone from the band is shown – everything is from that weekend in 1996 or recreations of fans’ experiences.
I don’t know how well the film would play out for someone who isn’t a fan of Oasis. Some documentaries can be compelling viewing even if a person isn’t a fan of the subject, but Knebworth is very much a fan service film. It doesn’t offer up a lot to someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in the band and isn’t an accounting of facts and figures – it’s the true story of that weekend in August 1996.
The fans tell their stories of that weekend – a young man who found out his girlfriend was pregnant just before arriving at the shows, the requisite group of lads who drove a junk car across the country, and a couple of girls who were able to score tickets early Sunday morning with just enough time to get to the festival grounds. One woman’s story about her brother, told as the band ran through The Masterplan, is especially touching and a standout moment from the film that truly captures the weight of these concerts and Oasis at their peak in 1996.
It is a theme discussed in the film – these shows in August were the end of youth and innocence for many in the crowd. These shows are often looked at as the end of the Britpop movement, though some choose the next year’s release of Be Here Now as that moment. While I wasn’t at the gigs it also was the end of my youth – I turned 19 about a week after these gigs. It was a strange and interesting time where the last vestiges of childhood fell by the wayside. Music and life wouldn’t be the same after this.
The Knebworth film does a great job of showcasing how much weight Oasis and these shows held. The story is told by the fans, for the fans in celebration of that historic weekend in 1996. This film lines up very well just after the Supersonic documentary, as its endpoint was these Knebworth shows. This is likely the end of full-form documentaries about Oasis, as their high points are now covered by these two films. It is a collection of stories – about the band, the 250,000 fans who packed the house those two nights, and the millions of fans around the world.