August 10th 1996, something massive happened. Oasis, 4 lads from Manchester, with one tumultuous brotherhood at its core, took to the stage at Knebworth House for the first of their two-night residency which would not only see them play to 250,000 people but cement their legacy as one of the greatest rock and roll acts ever.
“Genuinely, now, if I close my eyes, I can’t remember walking on stage at Knebworth,” Noel Gallagher once famously said when pressed on the matter. We can’t fathom why, as for so many fans and the wider public, this was THE gig to remember.
Full of beans (and one would imagine a lot more) following their 1995 album smash What’s The Story (Morning Glory), Oasis fronted by the brother’s Gallagher were set to make history, something not lost on the more sensible brother. “This is history,” Noel told the crowd… “I thought it was Knebworth” replied Liam and similarly to that quip, the gig would see the band at the peak of their powers.
“I always thought we should have bowed out after the second night at Knebworth,” guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs told The Guardian in 2009.
Unchanging and unflinching in the face of one of the largest gigs ever, the band stood firm and sang their hearts out alongside a quarter of a million of their fans.
In truth, they could’ve sold out the event for another 15+ nights at least, with over 2.5 million applications for tickets, which was not only a record but also 4% of the British population. The event had 3,000 crew members, 7,000 people on the guestlist and even it’s own radio station.
Radio Supernova was broadcast on 106.6 FM within a 20 mile radius of the site. Anyone tuning in was regaled with wall-to-wall Oasis anthems, plus songs from the various support bands, site information, and travel news.
So what was in store for those lucky fans? A night of sheer Britpop dominance. The support list read like a who’s who of great artists of the time with The Charlatans (who had only just lost their keyboardist Rob Collins a few months prior), Manic Street Preachers, The Prodigy, Cast, The Chemical Brothers and Kula Shaker all making appearances.
But with all that put away, the headliners made their way to the stage and with “Hello, hello, hello. Let’s go,” from Liam, the band launched into the opening salvo of ‘Columbia’, ‘Acquiesce’ and ‘Supersonic’.
What followed was nearly two hours of the best band on the planet at the time performing to their best of their abilities. Liam’s vocal is unstrained and poignant, Noel‘s guitar rears up like Boudica’s horse, and Oasis permanently burned their name into British history.
Finishing with their first ever top 10 hit ‘Live Forever’ the band then went on to cover possibly the only band bigger than Oasis. They took on The Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’ and as fireworks lit the sky the feeling that Oasis could be about to fill their shoes was beyond palpable – it was almost a certainty. What transpired was one of the most glorious tales of rock and roll ever. But we’ll leave that for another day.
For now, take a look at this video below and enjoy some of the best pics from the day Oasis ruled the world.