It was a soggy start to the Central Park SummerStage season, but that did not dampen the spirits or hold back the crowd of fans looking to revel in the 90’s heyday of the Britpop music scene with two frontmen of two archetypal giants of that genre who are touring together; Richard Ashcroft of The Verve and Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Both musicians helped define not only that movement, but also were major fuses in the alt rock explosion of the 1990’s in general. Britpop was, in many ways, the British answer (or response, depending on your opinion) to the rise of raw and heavy garage rock from the Pacific Northwest of America that would go on to be called grunge and did dominate the music world for many years. Although both scenes did play off similar themes, especially a rebellion of years of the conservative leadership and influence on both sides of the pond (via Regan and Thatcher) that stifled artistic value and produced mass amounts of anxiety within the younger generations, the Brit kids had a different approach, as they embraced more pop ideals, style, sound, and sensibilities while keeping much of the classic punk sneer and abrasive attitude.
Oasis and Verve joined forces with a horde of other bands including Blur, Stone Roses, Suede, and Pulp to conquer the American music scene, but were often featured by the more tabloid-styled UK music press to be more at constant war with each other over chart positions, as well as highlighting the sometimes vile inner-band battles of these young artists. The Verve ended in the late 90’s due to inner-battling and Oasis finally broke it off several years back after the well-known gripe-fest between the Gallagher brothers finally hit a melting point, and both these songsters have been busy as solo artists every since.
Both of these amazing frontmen juggled the nostalgia of their classics and their musical independence as independent solo artists in very similar ways in their sets, as they started a few of their hits, then sandwiched a few of their solo songs in the middle, then closed with several more classics, while both denied playing their one big career-defining hit.
Richard Ashcroft started of the show with a solo acoustic performance, calling out to Yoko Ono across the park as he charmed the crowd with a deeply warm charisma. He played classics like “Sonnet,” “Lucky Man,” and “The Drugs Don’t Work,” but left out “Bitter Sweet Symphony” from the set. I am a big fan of his first solo outing Alone with Everybody from 2000, but his fifth LP These People is a real spaced out epic.
Liam Gallagher played with a full band and had a very different attitude, as he came out wearing a big exaggerated frown for the cameras and got quite saucy and cross with the audience at several times. Still, it is widely known that is part of his brawling charm, and there was such a wealth of sing-along anthems in that Oasis catalogue that you couldn’t help bask in the glow of some true classics. He started off with “Rock n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory” and then played “Some Might Say,” “D’You Know What I Mean,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” “Supersonic,” and an amazing closer of “Live Forever.” Like Ashcroft, he also didn’t play his biggest hit, the radio monster “Wonderwall,” although I can kind of see how he’d get sick and tired of playing that one. His first full solo album As You Were was just released late last year, and it really bowled me over with how it really got back to the heart of what made his earlier albums so killer.
Article: Dean Keim