Oasis Knebworth 96 review: recapturing the history of music
There was a time when the Oasis band and nostalgia seemed to be a contradiction. While certainly inspired by the past, their meteoric rise in the 1990s was fueled by songs about feeling young and invincible, with nothing to matter beyond that moment. He captured the spirit of a country powered by a rare case of self-confidence that peaked in 1996. Britannia was cool; Trainspotting chose life; Football was coming home; and Tony Blair has promised us that things can only get better.
A quarter of a century later, the misty eyed dads of faded Adidas will convince you that nothing beats this time. It was their Summer of Love, and Knebworth his Woodstock. Building on the success of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory ?, Oasis performed in front of 250,000 people for two nights at Knebworth Park, lining up with previous headliners such as Led Zeppelin, Queen and The Rolling Stones. About 2.7% of the UK population have applied for a ticket, and to this day it retains an aura.
Nostalgia can often be deceptive, however, and with the Gallagher brothers now bickering on Twitter in their 50s, does a documentary about this famous concert reveal a disappointment or a legend that lives up to its name?
Oasis Knebworth 96 is an account of this concert through original images and the voices of the people who were there. The promoters, band members and fans tell us about the set-up, and then both nights have about the same time. The 1990s were a time when the archiving of cultural history began to become more important. While documentaries of famous ’60s or’ 70s concerts have to rely on someone bringing an 8mm camera or having a videotape of the show, here the filmmakers have a plethora of material to choose from – cover Jo Whiley Radio 1, news interviews and of course the concert itself was filmed in its entirety. It allows the spectator to experience or relive the concert in a sense on several levels.
The play is directed by Jake Scott, who made his own breakthrough in the ’90s, directing the video for Oasis’ single Morning Glory, as well as working with REM and Radiohead among others. Son of Ridley, he enjoyed sporadic success on the big screen with Plunkett & Macleane in 1999 and most recently awards season drama American Woman. It brings together awe-inspiring reconstructions of untold stories, as respondents recall waiting hours on a landline for tickets, or rushing home. They feel as authentic as the archival footage.
Wisely, he chooses to tell the story of the weekend from a fan perspective. There is no intellectualization of the moment, just people who were there to talk about what it meant to them: watching a working class group that was theirs, coming together to be part of something remarkable. âYou make history, remember it,â Noel assures them before embarking on an acoustic version of The Masterplan. A very emotional moment is recalled by a Scottish fan who watched the performance with his late brother, who would be diagnosed with cancer a few months later.
Of the group, Noel is the official spokesperson for the sensation of playing in front of so many people. As with past appearances, he proves to be an articulate and entertaining narrator. Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs has some sweetly impressed comments about being a part of it, like his thoughts on seeing the venue before the fans arrived (“eh, that’s just a pitch, it’s not that big. “). Liam is noticeable by his absence, only appearing at the end in a little snippet that sounds like someone coerced him into making a statement. He has been active in many previous Britpop documentaries, so it seems like a missed opportunity. In the context of the film, however, it allows us to see who he was in his prime – the swaggering figurehead of The Good Ship Oasis, growling in a crisp white cloak at a sea of ââpeople worshiping him. Either way before or since it is striking to see the power he has at that time.
Documentaries like Supersonic and Live Forever did a good job of chronicling the era, but Oasis Knebworth 96 is about feelings, not facts. He wants to put you on the field with young people having fun, play the tunes you know by heart, and fill you with nostalgia. It’s an hour and fifty minutes of fan service that will be devoured by those who were there, and those who wished they were.
Oasis Knebworth 96 is in theaters from September 23.