Documentary tracing the early years of Oasis from their council estate beginnings to their two shows at Knebworth in 1996, taking in all the breakthroughs and bust-ups along the way.
On 31 May 1993, five lads from Manchester hired a van to drive up to Glasgow, where they played a show to “seven people”. A little over three years later, they headlined the biggest gigs in history when a quarter of a million people went to see them at Knebworth over two nights. Supersonic documents that rise. It also throws into sharp focus just how rapid it was.
Supersonic boasts as powerfully emotional an ending as any film will have this year.
The film opens with Oasis at those record-breaking gigs — the camera follows them onstage as Columbia plays over the top. This is them in their pomp — kicking oversized footballs into the crowd, and revelling in the noise and sheer vastness of the throng in front of them. Then there’s a seamless segue to video footage of them recording a live demo of the same song in the basement of Manchester music venue The Boardwalk just a few years earlier. Their brisk ascent from unknown five-piece to tabloid-dominating brand, and the pressures it put them under, is one of the documentary’s major themes. And no-one interviewed — from Noel and Liam Gallagher, through the rest of the band, to the various people who shared their journey — shy away from this, discussing incidents such as Noel quitting the band amid a disastrous, crystal meth-fuelled gig in LA and original drummer Tony McCarroll’s sacking with admirable honesty. Even McCarroll, who admits, “I think about it every day, believe it or not,” two decades on.
But the first 30 minutes are spent tracing first how the band came into being and then the time they spent before they were signed. Given this was the early ’90s, it’s remarkable how much footage of their pre-stardom years exists. Yes, there are gaps — and such stories are told via old photos, animation and voiceovers — but what little we do have allows director Mat Whitecross to tell the story at the pace he wants, rather than rushing through it to finally get his stars on the screen. And they’re interesting snippets, too, from the band playing unreleased tracks (such as Take Me and See The Sun) to a live demo of Be Here Now single All Around The World recorded before they were even signed. And then, after Definitely Maybe became the fastest-selling debut of all time, the band were everywhere.
And so we see them being interviewed on TV, touring Japan and America (Liam: “First time on a jumbo plane”), at the recording sessions for (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory (although, sadly, no footage exists of Noel attacking Liam with a cricket bat), and then hitting the road again. It’s only here — as we move from Earls Court to Maine Road to Dublin — that the film begins to drag, but it’s ultimately justified as their estranged father resurfaces when they’re in Ireland. When that’s dealt with, it’s on to their grand finale at their record-breaking gigs.
Accompanying us on this journey is the era-defining music that reminds you just how vital the group were in their early years. But perhaps Oasis’ greatest strength was its two figureheads, Noel and Liam. Plenty of bands have good songs — but their charisma, bravado and (let’s be honest) flare-ups took Oasis to another level. They’re put to good use here — it’s their story, and they’re the main two voices telling it — speaking with typical wit and dubious wisdom about a time that feels simultaneously recent and impossibly long ago. And as the nostalgic memories from summer 1996 shimmer on the screen and we’re played out by The Masterplan, it’s as powerfully emotional an ending as any film will have this year.
The story of Britpop’s iconic band at its peak is told with wit, honesty and swagger. Which, given its two leads, is entirely fitting.