What is a concert?
Merriam-Webster Online offers the following definitions: "Agreement
in design or plan: union formed by mutual communication of opinion
and view," or "a public performance (as of music or dancing)."
On their current tours, Oasis and its old Blur rival Damon Albarn,
now the leader of the virtual band Gorillaz, are offering two
different versions of the concert experience, both lacking key
ingredients from the definitions above.
There may have been plenty of planning and design in Oasis'
performance Monday night at the UIC Pavilion, but there was no
"mutual communication," either between the musicians or with the
sold-out crowd. While Gorillaz offered a free concert on Tuesday via
a digital stream over Q101.com, the Web site for radio
station WKQX-FM (101.1), it could hardly be considered "a public
The infamous rivalry between Oasis and Blur in the mid-'90s is
now ancient history. Blur has been relegated to a cult following
here, while the battlin' Gallagher brothers' much larger fan base
displays an impressive level of devotion.
One young Oasis fan of my acquaintance, a South Side native and
aspiring rock critic, worships the group. He wasn't content just to
see the band at the UIC Pavilion; he is traveling to shows in Los
Angeles and Las Vegas, and he's disappointed that he will have to
miss the New York gig, although he bought a ticket.
Watching the sextet onstage Monday night, I wondered why this fan
is investing the time, money and effort. Oasis is renowned for
sticking to one set list throughout its tours -- the same 17 songs,
the same 85 minutes, thank you and goodnight -- and the actual
performances of those tunes don't vary.
The group is a polished, professional, arena-anthem-generating
machine. Sure, it's fun to join Liam Gallagher and 10,000 fans in
singing along to "Champagne Supernova." But four times in the span
of weeks? And since Liam and the boys basically stared at their
shoes, hardly acknowledging all those Chicago concertgoers, couldn't
this Superfan have just stayed home, cranked up the volume, sung
along with the video and saved the $37.50 ticket price?
The only moment of spontaneity came when Liam cracked wise and
dedicated "Alcohol and Cigarettes" to the crowd -- which, he noted
with a touch of sadistic gloating, was unable to buy beer or drink
because of the venue's puritanical restrictions. Otherwise, his
heavily accented comments were unintelligible; he barely interacted
with his bandmates, and he hardly moved, other than doing his
patented "half-moon Rhythm Tech tambourine placed upon my head as a
As usual, Liam's brother, guitarist and band auteur Noel
Gallagher, got his three obligatory vocal showcases, and the band
powered through songs new and old -- "Lyla," "Morning Glory," "Rock
'n' Roll Star" -- with sounds and arrangements identical to its
records. New drummer Zak Starkey got to stretch out with some Keith
Moon-style flailing at the end of "Mucky Fingers," but he was
woefully under-utilized through the rest of the set.
Of course, Zak's primary role in Oasis is to bring his pedigree
as Ringo Starr's son, providing one more link between the alleged
"best British band since the Beatles" (ha! ack! harrumph! excuse
me?) and the Beatles themselves.
Meanwhile, moonlighting Blur frontman Albarn is giving his old
foes their comeuppance with his cartoon side project Gorillaz. Two
weeks ago, the musical simians' second album, "Demon Days," debuted
at No. 6 on the Billboard albums chart; Oasis' "Don't Believe the
Truth" checked in at No. 12 upon its release in May. And now
Gorillaz are in the midst of a "virtual tour" supporting the disc.
From 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Q101.com
provided a link to a free half-hour Gorillaz "concert" that arrived
courtesy of your computer via either of the two most popular media
players. Albarn and his current collaborators twisted their songs in
intriguing new ways, and they even recruited psychedelic hip-hop
legends De La Soul to drop by for one song.
Unfortunately, the digital stream was audio-only. Lacking
visuals, Tuesday's Gorillaz show was only half the experience it
could have been. But then, so was the Oasis concert. The ultimate
irony is that the flesh-and-blood members of Oasis were barely more
"animated" than the two-dimensional Gorillaz.