Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - jonathan pile

ON 31 MAY 1993, five lads from Manch­ester hired a van to drive up to Glas­gow, where they played a show to “seven peo­ple”. A lit­tle over three years later, they head­lined the big­gest gigs in his­tory when a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple went to see them at Kneb­worth over two nights.

Su­per­sonic doc­u­ments that rise. It also throws into sharp fo­cus just how rapid it was.

The film opens with Oa­sis at those record­break­ing gigs — the cam­era fol­lows them on­stage as Columbia plays over the top. This is them in their pomp — kick­ing over­sized foot­balls into the crowd, and rev­el­ling in the noise and sheer vast­ness of the throng in front of them. Then there’s a seam­less segue to video footage of them record­ing a live demo of the same song in the base­ment of Manch­ester mu­sic venue The Board­walk just a few years ear­lier. Their brisk as­cent from un­known five-piece to tabloid-dom­i­nat­ing brand, and the pres­sures it put them un­der, is one of the documentary’s ma­jor themes. And no-one in­ter­viewed — from Noel and Liam Gal­lagher, through the rest of the band, to the var­i­ous peo­ple who shared their jour­ney — shy away from this, dis­cussing in­ci­dents such as Noel quit­ting the band amid a dis­as­trous, crys­tal meth-fu­elled gig in LA and orig­i­nal drum­mer Tony Mccar­roll’s sack­ing with admirable hon­esty. Even Mccar­roll, who ad­mits, “I think about it ev­ery day, be­lieve it or not,” two decades on.

But the first 30 min­utes are spent trac­ing first how the band came into be­ing and then the time they spent be­fore they were signed. Given this was the early ’90s, it’s re­mark­able how much footage of their pre-star­dom years ex­ists. Yes, there are gaps — and such sto­ries are told via old pho­tos, an­i­ma­tion and voiceovers — but what lit­tle we do have al­lows direc­tor Mat White­cross to tell the story at the pace he wants, rather than rush­ing through it to fi­nally get his stars on the screen. And they’re in­ter­est­ing snip­pets, too, from the band play­ing un­re­leased tracks (such as Take Me and See The Sun) to a live demo of Be Here Now sin­gle All Around The World recorded be­fore they were even signed. And then, af­ter Def­i­nitely Maybe be­came the fastest-sell­ing de­but of all time, the band were ev­ery­where.

And so we see them be­ing in­ter­viewed on TV, tour­ing Ja­pan and Amer­ica (Liam: “First time on a jumbo plane”), at the record­ing ses­sions for (What’s The Story?) Morn­ing Glory (although, sadly, no footage ex­ists of Noel at­tack­ing Liam with a cricket bat), and then hit­ting the road again. It’s only here — as we move from Earls Court to Maine Road to Dublin — that the film be­gins to drag, but it’s ul­ti­mately jus­ti­fied as their es­tranged fa­ther resur­faces when they’re in Ire­land. When that’s dealt with, it’s on to their grand fi­nale at their record-break­ing gigs.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing us on this jour­ney is the er­adefin­ing mu­sic that re­minds you just how vi­tal the group were in their early years. But per­haps Oa­sis’ great­est strength was its two fig­ure­heads, Noel and Liam. Plenty of bands have good songs — but their charisma, bravado and (let’s be hon­est) flare-ups took Oa­sis to an­other level. They’re put to good use here — it’s their story, and they’re the main two voices telling it — speak­ing with typ­i­cal wit and du­bi­ous wis­dom about a time that feels si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­cent and im­pos­si­bly long ago. And as the nos­tal­gic mem­o­ries from summer 1996 shim­mer on the screen and we’re played out by The Mas­ter­plan, it’s as pow­er­fully emo­tional an end­ing as any film will have this year.

ver­dict the story of brit­pop’s iconic band at its peak is told with wit, hon­esty and swag­ger. Which, given its two leads, is en­tirely fit­ting.

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