Even less partial observers would assess the last 12 months of Oasis's career and deduce that 2005 was the year they got their groove back, snatching victory from the jaws of a career seemingly growing ever more stagnant.
Very little of the blame for their gradual decline since the era-defining gigs at Knebworth Park in 1996 can be laid at the door of the band, although the meteoric rise that took them there in the first place can't have helped. The two years previous to these shows saw the Gallagher brothers rapidly ascend from mouthpieces of a nominally talked-about new band on an independent label to popular national figureheads.
They were boastful, confident and as in love with their own opinions as they were with the aspirational excitement of rock'n'roll music, and many felt that they should have embodied the shock of the old-made-new only as long as it took their first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory, to wake British music from the self-reverential torpor it lay in at the time, before imploding like their less often cited heroes, the Sex Pistols.
Yet here they still are, and the best part of nine years spent working hard and just barely staying on their feet, like old barroom sluggers, seems to be paying off. As even the most fevered, vocal and easily-pleased fan may admit to themselves, the fire was going out. And now, by ceasing vainly to fan it and instead accepting their new, less vital place in the world - like other credible survivors such as U2 or New Order - they've managed to keep it crackling along.
As this gig bears testimony, the old formula hasn't required much amending. Liam - still youthfully handsome-featured and sporting a suave safari coat and impressive sideburns - possesses a rare kind of rock-star magnetism that's attractive and repulsive at the same time. He's familiar enough that the whole audience can snigger along with his dedication of the drug-referencing "Morning Glory" ("all your dreams are made/ when you're chained to the mirror and the razor blade") to Kate Moss, yet he's also dismissive enough to risk offending a more genteel crowd with the farewell: "Merry Christmas, you fuckers, this is the last one." Naturally, Oasis's traditional fanbase care not for niceties, and roar their brusque hero on.
Noel, for his part, still plays the eternally affable big-brother figure, although the once-dictatorial guitarist is now allegedly part of a cooperative with fellow musicians Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Zak Starkey (the drummer, and the son of Ringo Starr). Yet it's telling that "Lyla" and "The Importance of Being Idle", the two consecutively chart-topping singles that have restored the band's pride this year, were still written by him.
The versions of old favourites such as "Cigarettes and Alcohol", "Live Forever" and "Wonderwall" that many fans doubtless attend for are present and correct, nostalgia-tinged yet delivered with commendable passion. Yet what's most pleasing about the show - probably for Noel as much as anyone, a man who knows too much about the workings of rock'n'roll to settle for becoming his own tribute act - is how much the strident and energetic new songs like "Turn Up The Sun" and "A Bell Will Ring" give these classics new life.
For too long, aside from the odd decent single, a contemporary song in Oasis's set has been a cue to head for the bar, or to take a breather and wait to join in with the polite applause at the end. But now, when, for example, "The Meaning Of Soul" pounds into life, an enlivened crowd give it their full attention - a crowd, it's worth pointing out, not just made up of late-twenty- and thirtysomething nostalgia seekers, but teenagers who are just starting to buy into the excitement that Oasis have only recently begun to represent once more.
For Oasis, it'll be, doubtless, a happier New Year than they've seen in a while.
Oasis play more UK dates in February ( www.oasisinet.com)Reuse content