In 1997, there was literally nobody bigger than Oasis. The band from Manchester, constructed around one of the most combustible fraternal relationships you’ll ever witness in Liam and Noel Gallagher, the group had transcended Britpop and become worldwide sensations.
Having previously tried and failed to crack America in 1994, as the embers of Grunge began to glow themselves into ash, they returned with two chart-topping albums under in the bag and another LP in Be Here Now under their arm ready to wow a new audience. One major stop in the pursuit of their continental dominance was Saturday Night Live.
For a long time, SNL had been the only place for rock acts of the moment to get their message out there. Oasis, for the most part, had struggled prior to 1997 to really get a foot in the door of any late-night TV show, let alone one of the biggest in the country. But they were invited to Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for a chance to reach a national audience by securing their coveted musical guest spot.
Naturally, Oasis wouldn’t let the opportunity slip through their hands and were keen to lay down a marker for all Brit acts to follow. As well as performing one of their bigger tracks from the album in ‘Don’t Go Away’ they offered up a future-fan-favourite in the searing performance of ‘Acquiesce’.
The song was originally released as the B-side for the band’s first number 1 single ‘Some Might Say’ and was later included on the 1998 release The Masterplan which included a compilation of B-sides. It’s been played so regularly by the band that it does that unusual thing of qualifying fair weather artist to the diehard fans. Chances are if you’ve heard of and like ‘Acquiesce’ then you’re a true Oasis fan.
That’s what makes the choice to perform it for a new national audience is so perfect. An uncompromising band at the best of times, though they were keen for the cash that America could provide, they clearly weren’t thrilled about playing up to their games or expectations. It’s something that can be easily identified in two ways.
Firstly, after this performance, the band never returned to SNL and rarely set foot on late-night American television again. Secondly, when the end credits are rolling and the guests are all waving and joking around with one another, usually a moment of American forced civility that would make the suburbs blush, Oasis are stoic, awkward and altogether unmoved, even if Chandler Bing is hosting. Liam Gallagher may blow kisses to his newfound audience but Noel just scratches his balls.
For the main part, Oasis were there for the music and, judging by this performance of ‘Acquiesce’ they made sure they were heard loud and clear.