Cocktail waitresses in black leather hot pants shuttled trays of drinks across the casino floor. Slot machines with names such as “Filthy Rich” and “Deuces Wild” chattered endlessly. Meanwhile, in a line that snaked past display cases bearing outfits worn by the likes of Prince, Shania, Alanis and Britney, Oasis fans from around the country anxiously waited to enter the Hard Rock Hotel’s small concert venue, the Joint. It was there that the members of Oasis chose to place their first foothold in the return climb for Stateside success with a ripping show on Friday for 1,400 of their closest friends.
After openers Cornershop took their leave, the crowd of mostly 20-somethings became increasingly excited, loudly chanting the band’s name in faux British accents. Some of the harder-core fans who were pressed up against the front barrier waved their hands and Union Jack flags, cheering each time the stage crew checked a microphone or tuned an instrument. The lights dimmed, and the screams intensified to something approaching insanity. Cheers of “Liam! Liam!” rose from one corner of the crowd and rapidly spread.
The instrumental “F–in’ in the Bushes” began blaring out the room’s soundsystem. Even though the stage was still vacant, fans with enough room began dancing and bobbing their heads, some even sporting Gallagher-esque hairdos. When the track ended, all five members of Oasis – singer Liam Gallagher, singer/guitarist Noel Gallagher, guitarist Gem Archer, bassist Andy Bell and drummer Alan White – appeared, and – without introduction, greeting, or any kind of acknowledgement that there were even other people in the room – launched into “Go Let It Out.”
Liam Gallagher adopted his signature pose; hands clasped behind his back, leaning to his right and singing up into the microphone, his voice pleasantly raspy. Photographers began snapping shots furiously.
As the band began their next song, “Columbia,” Noel Gallagher retreated to the rear of the small stage to tweak the tuning on his guitar. Ever the battling brothers, Liam turned to Noel and asked into the microphone, “Need a little help?” Noel responded with only an angry glare.
The band relied heavily on uptempo songs from their first two albums, though they effectively mixed in both some slower tunes and music from their fifth, Heathen Chemistry. The first of these was “Force of Nature,” which Liam introduced as “off our new album, you thieving bastards,” referring to the spreading piracy of the not-yet-released studio effort.
Liam’s instincts appeared to be correct, as most fans were familiar with the new songs and sang along with the lyrics as easily as they did with any of the band’s other work.
In addition to this animosity, Liam acted typically cool to the crowd of rabid fans. During his older brother’s guitar solos or vocal parts, Liam would usually take a walk offstage or stand practically ramrod straight, some distance away from the microphone. Occasionally standing at the very lip of the stage, he seemed very aloof for a show in such a small venue. Never did he truly play to the crowd.
In contrast, Noel was much warmer to the audience, twice thanking the crowd for a particularly large round of applause. While introducing “She’s Electric,” he joked, “Not for one f–ing minute did I ever think I’d be playing it in Las Vegas.”
Other new music showcased was “Hung in a Bad Place” (again Liam called the audience “thieving bastards” before starting it) and “Better Man.” Noel introduced the latter as being written by “the singer,” an allusion to the band’s more collaborative writing process on Chemistry.
After a blistering performance of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” – the lyrics of which sounded sadly ironic – the band left the stage to healthy, but not wild, cheers. The stage lights stayed on and the house lights stayed dark, however. The crowd seemed confused, unsure of whether or not enough cheers would produce an encore. A moment or two passed, and the fans united strongly enough to bring the band back out, except for Liam.
The Noel-led foursome performed “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as the first encore, with the crowd nearly drowning out his vocals. Noel allowed the crowd to take a chorus on their own, electing to just play the guitar part.
As their last song, Liam rejoined the group for a wild rendition of the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” Fans hit all their cues to hoot and holler, as the band frequently performs it live.
Just before leaving the stage, Noel Gallagher leaned into the microphone and said “thank you all for coming, and for stealing the f–ing album.” Liam tossed his black tambourine into the crowd, creating a sizeable wrestling match between fans.
It remains to be seen if Oasis’ new album will better the sales of their last two albums, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (192,000 units sold, according to SoundScan) and the double live disc Familiar to Millions (68,000), thieving bastards notwithstanding. Regardless, on this night in America’s playground, they did prove that a devoted throng still does exist and hunger for their particular brand of riffy guitar pop.
Just before 8 p.m., show openers Cornershop took the stage one by one to join in a bouncy instrumental. Greeted by radiant applause, the somewhat stoic band played seven songs, extensively using the likes of the sitar, bongos and chimes. As their third selection, Cornershop played “Norwegian Wood,” perhaps as a tribute to the late George Harrison, although nothing was said to that effect from the stage. A lone fan in the middle of the room lifted a lighter above his head in response.
The Set List For Oasis In Las Vegas On April 26, 2002: