Review: Oasis Knebworth 1996 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 27th, 2021  

Oasis Knebworth 1996

Studio: Trafalgar Releasing
Director: Jake Scott

Sep 21, 2021
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Oasis Knebworth 1996 focuses entirely on two concerts the band put on in Knebworth Park in August 1996, at the pinnacle of their Brit-popularity. A quarter million fans attended the shows, while hundreds of thousands more listened from home, having failed to secure the highly-coveted tickets.

To many – at least, according to the dozens of attendees interviewed for the film – the weekend was a peak of ‘90s British culture. It was a Woodstock for the U.K. that did a better job of replicating the 1969 festival’s positive vibes than either of the American festival’s two iterations that decade could. The concerts have been covered in other films – like the Creation Records doc Upside Down or Oasis: Supersonic from five years ago – but instead of emphasizing the importance of the shows to the band or their label, Knebworth 1996 foregrounds the experience of those 250,000 spectators.

Unfortunately, the film is at its weakest when it focuses on these fans’ accounts, and these accounts take up an endless stretch of the first half of the film. Reenactments of young people waiting on the phone to find out if they’d gotten tickets or happily singing along to the band on the train ride to Knebworth feel like pharmaceutical commercials; the former resembles someone anxiously receiving lab results, while the latter brings to mind groups of friends living their best lives thanks to their new miracle prescription.

The testimonials remain confusing and mildly irritating into the performance section of the film. Multiple songs are breathlessly introduced by different disembodied voices as “my favorite song,” to the point that it’s a relief when one finally isn’t. The band’s special bond with their fans is brought up multiple times, but we rarely see the Gallaghers acknowledge their audience as anything other than a faceless mass that’s had the good fortune of getting to bask in the glory of Oasis. And the slightly baffling digression about the crowd’s terrified reaction to the Prodigy’s Keith Flint sticks out awkwardly, as it’s the only time devoted to one of the opening acts (no mention of sets from the Chemical Brothers or Manic Street Preachers, among others).

All of that said, the film turns things around once it arrives at the advertised centerpiece. Oasis’ performance over the two nights make a much stronger case for their popularity and for the continued public interest in this era of their career than any number of attendees could. Every song sounds like it was written to be played only for audiences in the hundreds of thousands, and Liam Gallagher is every bit the Plant-Jagger-whatever golden god he believed himself to be. The bravado in his signature hands-behind-back posture is infectious, and his voice sounds truly fantastic. Even singing some of the band’s sillier lyrics (“Acquiesce” and “Some Might Say” – both good songs! – come to mind), Liam’s absolute certainty that no one is better than him at this carries the viewer right along to the next song.

While a more straightforward concert film would have been preferable, it would also be less likely to get produced 25 years after the fact, so perhaps this film was necessary to get this footage more widely seen. Nevertheless, Noel and Liam have always been their own most vociferous advocates, and their performance here is one of their stronger arguments for immortality.

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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