Oasis kicked off the winter radio-festival season this weekend by introducing their new guitarist and bassist to U.S. audiences while keeping those audiences mostly in the dark about their upcoming fourth album.
In Philadelphia on Friday and Chicago on Saturday, the British pop-rock band played identical five-song sets that focused on past glories and eschewed their recently completed Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, due Feb. 29.
But in Philadelphia, WPLY-FM, sponsor of the Y100 Feastival which also featured Beck, Foo Fighters and Moby broadcast an acoustic version of the new Oasis song "Who Feels Love," recorded by lead guitarist Noel Gallagher in the radio station's studio before the concert. Judging by an MP3 recording of the performance circulating around the Net, the song is a slow, introspective number. "Thank you for the sun, the one that shines on everyone who feels love," Gallagher sang.
The shows came less than four months after Oasis guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and bassist Paul McGuigan announced they were leaving the band.
"I don't know who took over," confused but happy fan Rob Dunne, 24, of Dublin, Ireland, said, referring to new rhythm guitarist Gem Archer (ex-Heavy Stereo) and bassist Andy Bell (ex-Ride) during the Philadelphia show, at the First Union Center.
Neither musician was introduced to the crowd at either the Y100 Feastival or at Saturday's Twisted 6 (WKQX-FM) show in Chicago.
Oasis who also include singer Liam Gallagher and drummer Alan White were scheduled to play on Sunday The Night 89X Stole Christmas show in Detroit, sponsored by CIMX-FM, and the KROQ-FM Almost Acoustic Christmas in Anaheim, Calif., on Dec. 11.
The weekend shows marked the beginning of what in recent years has become a circuit of holiday radio concerts.
In addition to the shows in Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit, WHFS-FM in Washington, D.C., will host its Holiday Nutcracker show on Monday (Dec. 6); Seattle's The End (KNDD-FM) holds its Deck the Hall Ball on Thursday; and Live 105 (KITS-FM) in San Francisco stages its Not So Silent Night on Friday.
Big-name acts are making minitours of the shows. Foo Fighters, who played a 10-song, 40-minute set at the Philadelphia festival, will play all of these dates except Detroit's, and will also play KNRK-FM's Snowball in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday. Bush perform in all the remaining shows, except in Washington; the British rock band instead will play in Indianapolis on Monday.
Other bands hitting multiple shows this season include Beck, who ended the Philadephia show with an extended version of "Devils Haircut" (RealAudio excerpt), Blink-182, Fiona Apple, Filter, Tori Amos and Moby.
In Chicago's Allstate Arena, Oasis' two new recruits kept to themselves at stage right. Archer occasionally broke from the invisible wall that once kept Oasis backing players in a uniform line across the stage. He stepped forward to the monitors and bounced his head, shoulders and foot during "Wonderwall" (RealAudio excerpt).
On both nights, Oasis also played "Cigarettes and Alcohol" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Supersonic" (both from 1994's Definitely Maybe), "Champagne Supernova" (from 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?) and a closing cover of the Beatles rocker "Helter Skelter" with Noel Gallagher on vocals.
The setlists suggested that the primary goal of the American outing is to log warmup time with Archer and Bell before a world tour next year. Several times in Chicago, Noel Gallagher, the group's primary songwriter, focused on his new bandmates, watching for them to enter songs on cue.
But if the festival slots were envisioned as spring-training sessions, the Gallagher brothers treated them as if they were the World Series.
"I don't see no f---in' love. Where's the love?" Liam Gallagher demanded as the band walked onstage in Chicago. During "Cigarettes and Alcohol," the singer threw his mic stand straight in the air and let it fall, then flung down his tambourine. He followed such familiar gestures with walks about the stage, looking like royalty surveying its domain.
The singer, whose reported arrogance often provides fodder for British tabloids, did make sure to note the holiday season. In Philadelphia, he reminded concert-goers that the show was also a food drive, and made a display of donating a can of Oasis brand canned peas (canned in India). In Chicago, he suggested the band play a cover of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
"The lack of quantity tonight pissed me off, but what I saw was really good," Jesse Roth, 25, of Drexel Hill, Pa., said of Friday's show, the third time he's seen Oasis. "I just wish there was more."
"They definitely showed they haven't lost anything in two years," Anna Nicholson, 19, of New York, said. "I was hoping for some new material, but all the same it was good to see them back in action."