It was a time of immense cultural shift. Mid 1990s Britain. There simply was no other band at that time that could epitomise the feeling amongst what seemed like an entire generation.
With the band’s second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory having been released six months prior to my date with destiny, Oasis were big news. With the tour in full swing and making headlines around the globe, the band’s impact was immense and growing. And now, they were coming home.
No gig I’ve ever been at had generated the vibe in the weeks building up to the event like this one had. An electrical undercurrent, a buzz feeding from an awaiting public. At this time Oasis were far more than a sound. They were a feeling.
And so at last the day arrived. It was April 26th, 1996. The first night of two sold out concerts. This was to be the band’s official deceleration that they are indeed a stadium band. They didn’t disappoint.
Making our way through the narrow, cobbled streets of Moss side we joined the like-minded masses.
This was when the “Britpop” subgenre of alternative rock was at its most powerful, and boy, I could feel it!
Standing within thirty yards of the stage, anticipation was overcome by a pure excitement.
Ocean Colour Scene had taken to the stage, another band at the peak of their power. They’re one of my favourite groups but on this occasion seemed irrelevant at the prospect of what was to come. Not least because they were overshadowed by a white kagool clad Liam Gallagher appearing in one of the executive boxes at the top of Maine Road’s Kippax stand. He waved and gestured at the 45,000 of us gathered below.
Forty minutes later and the second support act of the evening was coming to a close. As the Manic Street Preachers made way, the stage was set.
I have no recollection of how much time had passed as the biggest band on the planet made their entrance. Noel Gallagher, clearly running on adrenaline and feeding off the euphoric reaction, bounded to the front of the stage.
Dressed as though he’d just nipped out for a pint of milk in his red sleeved jacket, he gestured and shouted incomprehensible greetings as his band mates unassumingly took up their positions in his shadow, before standing and applauding the crowd as though he were a footballer. Clutching his now infamous union jack clad guitar, a slight hush fell over the stadium. Anticipation made way to jubilation as the opening notes of Swamp Song blasted from the stage.
Mid track, Noel stepped aside as Liam made his entrance. Sauntering towards the centre of the stage, wearing chequered shirt and his now trademark Lennon styled rounded specs, he absorbed his welcome.
As the opening instrumental number came to an end, he took to the mic. I couldn’t understand what he bellowed, but that was just fine, nobody could. He rambled and mumbled for several seconds as his voice echoed back and forth around us. Then he paused to introduce the second track. “Acquiesce, yeah?”
As the notes flowed the entire stadium bounced. It felt like the whole of Manchester was bouncing with us. Indeed, as anthem after anthem bombarded our senses, the entire planet came to a stop as far as everyone in that stadium at that time were concerned.
It’s impossible to explain how such electricity can radiate from a band who are so inanimate during their performance. They stood rooted to their respective positions, arms strumming, like trees in a breeze. And yet, the energy released on that stage on that night created an atmosphere that was absorbed by all in attendance. A depth of emotion that I haven’t witnessed before or since.
After the group had performed a cover of the Beatles classic I Am the Walrus in tribute to their heroes, the evening climaxed with an extended encore of Cum on Feel the Noise.
With the dying notes still reverberating around the ageing venue, the band disappeared with no more than a friendly wave. An abrupt and very fitting end to the most memorable of spectacles.
It took what seemed like an eternity to file away from Maine Road. Not that it mattered to any of us, we were buzzing from what we had witnessed. The feeling was that tonight’s events wouldn’t just live long in our memories, but actually had a historical relevance.
It would be impossible to convey to friends who weren’t in attendance.
We eventually made it back to Manchester City centre. It was hours later and by now, very late.
Our hotel was on a quiet side street.
We entered the building and as we crossed the foyer a figure cought my eye. I turned to face a man exiting the hotel bar. He was dressed in a white kagool and rounded specs. It was clear from the way he moved and swaggered that this was the same figure who had, only hours earlier, thrilled over 40,000 concert goers by appearing in an executive box, high in Main Road.
I smirked as he looked into my eyes and gave me a nod of acknowledgement.
My grin turned to a subdued chuckle as well it might, after all, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It wasn’t Liam Gallagher after all.