By combining the melodies of the Beatles with the thunder of the Who, Oasis has arguably defined the sound of British rock for the past 15 years. At Staples Center, though, the band Oasis most resembled was the Rolling Stones — and that’s not meant as a compliment.
The version of the Stones they recall is that band’s ‘80s and ‘90s nadir, when they listlessly ran through a static set of hits with a couple from their latest album squeezed in. So at Staples, Oasis played the same 90-minute set they’ve been following for months, with stops at all the expected hits (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Wonderwall”) and six songs from “Dig Out Your Soul,” their eighth album and first for Reprise.
But unlike the Stones, who at least understood the performance aspect of a concert, Oasis simply walks on stage, plugs in and stands there, as the pro-forma lights and video flash standard issue pop art surrealist images. The songs, with their swaggering energy and surging melodies, are given proficient if uninspired readings that closely follow the recorded versions. The band never appears to be touched by the power or emotion the music invokes; only Noel Gallagher’s vocal on an acoustic version of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” has a pulse.
The new songs are pale, workman ike imitations of earlier material, which have never strayed too far from their sources. They do show guitarist/main songwriter Noel Gallagher expanding his range — this time out nicking licks and melodies from the Moody Blues (“Falling Down”) and the Doors (“Waiting for the Rapture”). And the finale of the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” feels redundant. Like everything else, it adds nothing to the recording, only appending a coda lifted wholesale from “Helter Skelter.
At this point, Oasis might want to take the advice offered in “The Importance of Being Idle” and remember “I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it.” It took the Stones about 15 years to figure that out; given their shorter career and diminishing returns, Oasis doesn’t have that luxury.
A lack of passion has never been Ryan Adams’ problem. The New York based singer-songwriter has always seemed to suffer from a surfeit of emotion, seeming to careen heedlessly from enthusiasm to enthusiasm.
But in compressing his marathon headlining shows into a one-hour opener’s set, he muted his appeal. He’s raised the volume and emphasized the rock side of his catalog. In the best moments, “Crossed Out Name” and the rousing finale “Magick” (both from the new Lost Highway album “Cardinology”), Adams and his fine band, the Cardinals, evoke the lyricism of Jerry Garcia but with a snappier rhythm section. But the cranked up volume and preponderance of mid-tempo songs muffle his melodies and turn the music flat.
Oasis and Adams play New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17.