Nothing going on but the songs

Oasis launched their national tour in Exeter on Saturday. Though perhaps launch is too dynamic a word, writes Magnus Mills

When Liam Gallagher wanders round and round on the stage he looks completely lost, like the blokes at the back of the auditorium wandering round with pints of lager searching for their mates. And when he returns to the microphone his chosen stance isn't very much more interesting.

It makes you wonder why the "great" rock 'n' roll lead singers of the past went to such efforts as they did. Anyone who saw Robert Plant brushing the floor with his hair while not bending at the knees, Mick Jagger publicly jerking and strutting, or Ian Gillan shaking violently as he invented head-banging, may consider Liam slightly wooden. All he does is stand there with an odd stoop, his hands clamped behind his back as if his forearms have been lashed together. This is how he would have to stand if he were wearing a strait-jacket instead of a purple blue parka. At other times he squats down on the stage and gazes at the audience, because Liam Gallagher has the gift of a great voice.

That whine of his is capable of cutting above any amount of guitar feedback and distortion Noel Gallagher can produce. The other three (who should be given some collective name, such as "the stoneheads") don't do anything except concentrate on their instruments for the entire show, but that doesn't matter either. It's the Oasis sound that people have come for, and nobody really seems bothered that there's nothing going on up on stage.

Good job, really. Apart from the deliberately wonky stage-set, consisting of a Rolls-Royce drum kit (registration number SYO 724F), a giant backwards clock and a lop-sided phone box, there's nothing much to see. Indeed, the greatest cheer of the evening came when the band first emerged from the phone box at the beginning of the act. After that, the four musicians remained firmly rooted in place while Liam drifted around and sang from time to time.

It was tempting to question whether the enthusiastic Oasis crowd packing out this giant corrugated shed in Devon had ever seen any other bands to compare them with. The ones who were picked up after the gig by their parents in cars most probably hadn't. But wait, there were people here wearing T-shirts that proved they'd been to Reading, and even Glastonbury. They can't all be wrong can they? Or are they?

No, they can't. When you see Oasis perform "Roll With It", "Some Might Say", and "D'You Know What I Mean?" in a row, like a gambler laying down a royal flush, you get to know the meaning of the word great. That's actually the Gallagher brothers up there! The only difference between them and The Beatles is that they've played on Top of the Pops.

And don't forget that Noel Gallagher can sing as well (in his own way.) He and Liam shared the vocals on "Acquiesce", the single encore song, and probably the rockiest composition in their entire set, as well as being their best-ever B-side. Noel also undertook several extensive forays on the lead guitar, notably a soaring eight minute solo at the end of "Champagne Supernova". Unfortunately, his association with lead guitar is more in the manner of Dave Hill or (listen closely) Justin Hayward, rather than, say, Jimmy Page or Rory Gallagher, so there were no guys down the front playing air. But it's obvious he could do a lot more with the instrument if he so chose. In fact, if it weren't for all the girls shouting the name of Liam, he could probably do it all on his own.

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