On 10th and 11th August 1996, 250,000 music fans converged to see Oasis play two record breaking, era-defining shows. Oasis Knebworth 1996 is part concert film, part time capsule. With director Jake Scott (son of Ridley) not only speaking to the band to reflect on the shows but also the fans who were there.
The documentary would have you believe that those two nights in Knebworth Park was the most important cultural landmark event for a generation. On the evidence presented, it would be difficult to argue otherwise. Particularly if you were of that generation.
Call it Britpop, call it Cool Britannia but there was a wave of excitement washing over the youth of Britain in the mid-Nineties. It felt like movies, television, magazines and music was being produced that spoke to them. Trainspotting, TFI Friday, FHM, Nuts, Zoo, Blur and, of course, Oasis.
Oasis were like Patrick Swayze in Point Break, perfectly riding the surf and Knebworth marked the crest of that wave.
It is easy to forget, given how acrimonious the eventual split between the Gallagher brothers was, just how big the band were at the time. In 1996, What’s The Story (Morning Glory) sold 345,000 copies in the first week and is still the biggest selling UK album of the Nineties.
It is fair to say that Oasis completely 100% bought into their own hype as “the biggest band in the world”. Only two years and two albums into their career, they set their sights on playing Knebworth Park. A venue that was reserved for established, legendary acts like Queen and Led Zeppelin.
They needn’t have worried. As the documentary goes at great lengths to mention, 2.7% of the UK population tried to get tickets when they went on sale and instantly sold out 250,000 over two nights.
This is where the nostalgia factor really kicks in. With Scott using the audio recordings from fan testimonials to recreate scenes of them of spending hours on the phone trying to secure the precious tickets. Yes, even though it was only 25 years ago, it feels like another world. No internet. No Ticketmaster. This was a time when you had to queue overnight outside a record shop or try to phone a booking line. And some phones back then didn’t even have a redial button… just a rotary dial. Kids these days wouldn’t understand!
On a personal not, this reviewer was one of the unlucky ones unable to secure a ticket. Forced to listen to the gig on Radio 1 instead!
Movies, and music, have the ability to transport audiences. To pause reality for a few hours and escape to another time and place. By accessing previously unseen live footage of the two concerts, Scott is able take die-hard Oasis fans and filmgoers back to 1996. Allowing them to feel what those 250,000 fans experienced.
It was impossible not to get caught up in the nostalgia. Washing over you like a Mexican wave that starts in the mosh pit and heads all the way to those at the back of the park. Feeling like you were sixteen again listening to absolute classics songs that defined your teenage years. Champagne Supernova, Supersonic, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Don’t Look Back In Anger and Live Forever.
Watching the film, there was the strangest feeling. Something felt different about this gig. And then it clicked. There was not a single phone in sight. In a time before everyone had a mobile phone, everyone was 100% present in the moment. Not viewing it through the (incredibly annoying) filter of an iPhone or iPad stuck in front of their face.
Oasis Knebworth 1996 turns back the clocks and puts you in the front row of the show. There is no looking back in anger, just evidence of Rock N Roll Stars at their zenith. Proof that the legacy of those two crazy nights in the lives of five guys from a council estate in Manchester will Live Forever.
Oasis Knebworth 1996 is in cinemas from September 23rd.
Director: Jake Scott
Stars: Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher
Runtime: 110 minutes