2008 08 27 Seattlepi


Oasis opens a '90s rock 'n' roll time capsule


WHEN: Tuesday night
WHERE: WaMu Theater

"It is so cool," North Carolina singer-songwriter Ryan Adams said as he took the stage Tuesday night, "to be here with one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time."

Such a bold claim (Oasis? One of the greatest of all time? Really?) might have caused some head-scratching outside WaMu Theater, but inside nothing could have been more obvious to the sold-out crowd.

Concertgoers stomped and whistled their approval as Adams and his band referenced a host of bands that could give Oasis a run for their GOAT-money — Television, The Replacements, the Stones, the Grateful Dead. There are countless bands arguably better than Oasis, but like many songwriters (Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, to name two), Adams is mesmerized by the effortlessness of the Brits' driving songcraft. Famously, Cuomo has scholarly binders dedicated to unlocking the mystery of Oasis' hits, something Adams probably would do if he had anything of the scholar in him.

Adams' songs, such as "Cold Roses" and "Rescue Blues," will never achieve "Champagne Supernova"-level radio play, but they are fine pop specimens nonetheless. The Cardinals' melodies and amphitheater rock tunes furthered the work of warm-up act Matt Costa, a honey-voiced Californian whose affable set echoed Jack Johnson as much as the Fleet Foxes.

After a short intermission, a backlit Liam Gallagher strutted on stage in an ascot and leather jacket, still very much the rock star given to preening and posing. As a group of bewhiskered blokes in the crowd began chanting "O-a-sis, O-a-sis," running back and forth trying to start a wave, the band launched into "Rock 'n' Roll Star" from the 1994 album "Definitely Maybe."

Hearing such a throwback felt like being at a strange historical re-enactment, an exhibit called "When Oasis Roamed the Earth." Even though Gallagher's countrymen Coldplay are the current saviors of the record industry, they'll never approach the level of fame Oasis had in the mid-'90s. Oasis' monolithic anthems were inescapable then, causing much of the overheated British press to believe the band was bigger than The Beatles. That seems so strange 15 years on, but the band has a certain power.

Now, Oasis' music can sound as much like Motley Crue as the Fab Four, especially when it's unmoored from '90s nostalgia. On Tuesday, the band churned through 10 songs ("How many albums do they have?" an incredulous fan behind me asked) before launching into a few songs from "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?"

That album has to make the band a little bit bonkers, since it's not all that different from the subsequent albums — singalong choruses and major-scale melodies abound — but no band could ever hope to achieve the success of "Wonderwall" once, let along again. That pop masterpiece is Liam and Noel Gallagher's "Freebird," and they dutifully played it near the end of the set, sending lighters up throughout the crowd as Liam's nasally voice rang out, "I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now."

Travis Nichols is a Seattle writer and critic.

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