I was a young BBC News Correspondent and had arrived to cover for the BBC’s LA Correspondent over Christmas. I was very jetlagged after playing Mortal Kombat II nonstop for 11 hours on the flight over. But then Jeremy Cooke rang and told me he had heard on KROC that Oasis were playing a surprise gig at the Viper Room that night and offered to cover it for Radio 1’s Newsbeat. So rather than meeting him the next day in the office, did I want to come? This is the review I wrote the day after, thinking I might offer it to one of the British inkies – Melody Maker or the NME. These were the heady days of Britpop. I found it in the back of the filing cabinet in a folder with thank you letters from the Cabinet Office, broadcasting executives and various illustrious bodies. You can tell I was attempting a “style”. It does make me cringe. I apologise for “Yanks” and rudeness about brains. Not ok. It was my own attempt at youthful macho swagger. But it is what it is. An attempt to capture a moment.
In Britain they fill Wembley Arena. In Los Angeles, preppie couples in the Viper Lounge were discussing whether to other staying on after the Zen Cowboys and Chickenhawk for Oasis. The intimate club was packed out with a mix of industry “decision maker”, a hybrid batch of Goths, and alarmingly convincing Damon Albarn lookalikes. They’d all heard the hype. But they all needed convincing.
After a soundcheck, with the velvet curtains jumping around on the stage, the ‘Sis got off to a cracking start. All credit to Liam for perfecting a rock god act which requires minimal physical movement; just holding the mic lead carefully in his mouth, like a rookie Lassie, and staring blankly with those limpid eyes.
A rollicking Hello, Roll With It, and Some Might Say were definitely the highlights of a twenty minute set. Americans looked blankly as Liam, in the way of band banter, bawled something about “this is fookin’ great” and Manchester. Translation hopefully provided by a small contingent of British tourists, who were bounding around, unable to believe their luck. Sadly the Brits were also nearly the only ones actually moving. The crowd actually managed to make Liam’s stage act look like Take That. Arms crossed, pained expressions. Oh dear. A lacklustre Live Forever didn’t help; Liam deciding to give up on actually moving his lips and consigned large chunks of singing to big brother.
Cigarettes and Alcohol finally got some movement out of the crowd. The playing was superb. All on excellent form, and to hear it belted out in the intimacy of a venue which, as a fellow listener commented, was smaller than the Kent University hall whe he last saw them in 1994, well, it was fabulous.
Whether overly packed out with insiders or not, it’s clear the gig served as a useful illustration of the uphill struggle the band faces in the ‘States. People had come expecting The Beatles. They saw and heard something rather more akin to Slade. Without the acoustic wonders of Noel’s gentler numbers, I Am The Walrus, even as beautifully as it as performed, couldn’t amuse this lot.
And Liam walking off even before the band had finished playing – muttering thanks under the din – thus totally inaudible – suggested little attempt to tackle the situation with professional politeness.
Aww, who cares what the Yanks think anyway? For the tourists who found themselves there, and hopefully for a handful of Americans with brains, it was a moment out of history – like seeing The Beatles last ever performance at the Cavern. It may not have been their greatest, but it was for anyone who was there.