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Live: Oasis at the Staples Center

December 5, 2008 | 12:48 pm

It took Oasis only four songs Thursday night to start a ruckus at Staples Center, where a squad of security guards dragged a man from his front-row seat after he exchanged some unintelligible words with Liam Gallagher, the veteran English band's dependably cantankerous frontman.

Second (most of the time) to music, troublemaking has long been Oasis' stock in trade: When Gallagher and his guitarist brother Noel founded the group in the early 1990s, their project was pairing punk's spit-in-your-eye spirit with the compositional grandiloquence of classic '60s-era pop.

On huge-selling early records such as "Definitely Maybe" and "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" the Gallaghers used melody to disguise the fact that they were shredding your eardrums with noise; meanwhile, both siblings have taken fame as a welcome opportunity to exercise their loudmouth tendencies. Today the brothers are the only original members left in Oasis -- "Would you like to say hello to our 15th drummer?" Noel asked the crowd at Staples Center -- and it isn't hard to figure out why.

Thursday's show was the second of a current North American tour in support of the band's strong new album, "Dig Out Your Soul," which, after a decade of creeping irrelevance, makes a fairly convincing case that Oasis still knows the shortest distance between a smile and a snarl.

Actually, "smile" might be overstating the case: For most of their 105-minute set, the Gallaghers and their mates played with all the evident enthusiasm of a bunch of old-timers putting away after-work pints at the pub. By the end of the show, Liam had even done away with the customary song introduction and had begun simply naming songs before the band played them. (Of course, that might've been because most of Oasis' best songs, like "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova," aren't about anything.)

Thanks to the miracle of guitar fuzz, that seeming indifference came off less like boredom and more like an appealing act of confrontation: Liam didn't need to beg us to sing along with "Cigarettes & Alcohol" and "Supersonic" because what choice did we really have in the matter?

Examined in close proximity to those indelible hits, new tunes such as "Waiting for the Rapture" and "To Be Where There's Life" lacked the anthemic brio that always distinguished Oasis from artier Britpop peers like Blur and Pulp. And though he's by far the band's most talented songwriter -- indeed, Oasis albums invariably suffer when he passes the pen to his brother or one of his bandmates -- Noel made for a rather ho-hum frontman during the handful of songs he sang.

As much as Liam needs Noel's melodic know-how, Noel needs Liam's front-and-center star power.

Opening the show with his sturdy alt-country backing band the Cardinals, Ryan Adams tried to work a similar mixture of antagonism and affection. Here's another darn sunshiney anthem, he said (in slightly more colorful language) before playing "Go Easy," a typically melancholy cut from this year's fine "Cardinology."

Apparently irritated by the audience's reluctance to receive his music with the hushed reverence it deserves, Adams retreated to sarcasm (not to mention bizarre, possibly booze-fueled ruminations on Jethro Tull and "the tyranny and horrors of math"). As Thursday's headliners demonstrated, though, that's a weapon that requires experience to handle.

--Mikael Wood

Photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times