Oasis add to their list of records

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The Independent Online
We were making a little bit of history. Noel Gallagher told us so with the kind of hubris of which only pop stars are capable. But 125,000 Oasis fans cheered the remarks of the band's songwriting guitarist anyway, because that's what fans do.

The history was that two concerts the band staged at Knebworth on Saturday and yesterday broke various records for the largest open-air rock concerts yet held in this country (full-blown festivals not included).

A quarter of a million people paid in excess of pounds 22 a head, grossing the band a record pounds 6m. Even that left quite a few disappointed fans - a record 2 million people called the Oasis hotline and tickets sold out within eight hours (another record). The Knebworth PA was the biggest yet devised. And its backdrop 100-square-metre video screen was the biggest yet built. Or so the record PR would have had us believe.

But it was not a day to challenge facts. It was a day of celebration, in which only one person was arrested (unless you count the nine fans picked up at Stevenage railway station, when 15,000 people tried to board a single train - and we were not counting such facts because it would have spoiled the good-humoured festivity).

It was, in any case, a day when anything seemed possible. Who else but Oasis, among the younger Britpop bands, could have drawn such a motley coalition of enthusiasts as that which assembled in the grounds of the Disneyesque stately home at Knebworth? There were representatives of its bedrock constituency. Squads of young men in their twenties, their necks and bellies beginning to thicken with booze, poured out of hired Transits (vans are cheaper to hire than minibuses). One group produced a sofa from the van, from which some continued drinking, while their mates brought out footballs. "I'm totally pissed," said one as he fell to the ground as if in validation of the band's laddishness.

Alongside them, members of the Grissini Tendency unloaded from Saabs and Volvos, their M&S picnics of Parma ham with sorrel salad, together with wine illicitly poured into orange-juice cartons (no alcohol to be taken into the arena). They made their way along the two-mile route to and from the car park with much talk of rock with tunes, and comparisons with the Beatles.

Inside the arena they sat side by side somewhat gingerly at first, with delegates from the Tattooed Fraternity, who periodically staggered off to the fence, which had become the unofficial urinal, and proceeded to urinate with one hand while drinking with the other.

As the disparate groups passed the afternoon in a gargantuan consumption of food and drink, the arena began slowly to resemble the kind of Third World rubbish dump from which rag-pickers make their living and whose inhabitants live constantly in danger of a visit from Mother Teresa.

At first the groups remained in disunity. "You're complete crap. Get off," shouted a rather respectable-looking young middle-aged mum when The Prodigy, denizens of dance, took to the stage immediately before Oasis. But as darkness fell, and the debris became invisible, the differences dissolved.

True, even then there was a residuum of disdain from long-standing fans who spoke earnestly about the early gigs in 1991. One die-hard looked condescendingly around the throng, saying: "In those days most of this lot thought Oasis was just a shop in Manchester where Boy George once worked."

But the lights flashed on and his remarks were submerged in the roar.

Leading article, page 11

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