The ''Wonderwall' groups make their fourth trip to the U.S.

By Mike Flaherty
Updated March 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Predictions of breakout, youth-friendly pop groups as the second coming of the Beatles (remember the Bay City Rollers, Menudo, New Kids on the Block?) are as routine and unfounded as, well, Elvis sightings. Still, the shrieking pubescent hysteria that greeted Oasis as they took the stage of Philadelphia’s venerable, sold-out Tower Theater could not help but conjure Ed Sullivan Show flashbacks among the crowd’s older contingent.

This fourth U.S. trek by Manchester, England’s famously combative rockers finds them giddily embraced by the acne-and-braces set, the same kids who are largely responsible for keeping the band’s second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and its ubiquitous megahit, ”Wonderwall,” currently entrenched in Billboard‘s top 10. Surrounded by a clutch of gaga friends, 16-year-old Jenn Walther gushed: ”Oasis is just the bomb. They have these awesome songs that are really easy to get into. And they’re very versatile. One song will be acoustic, and then there’ll be, like, electric guitars.”

On stage, Oasis are as stoic as their legions are manic, performing devoid of facial expressions and almost entirely stationary. Lead vocalist Liam Gallagher stood with hands clasped behind his back, restricting his movement to an occasional swaggering skulk during instrumental breaks; his banter was limited to a deadpan announcement of each song title. In an inversion of rock-concert convention, Oasis saturated the early segment of the 17-song, hour-plus show with up-tempo raves like ”Hello,” ”Roll With It,” and ”(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” then followed up with the balladlike rush of ”Live Forever” and ”Wonderwall,” which was performed during a mid-show solo acoustic set by the band’s guitarist and songsmith Noel Gallagher; it was a presentation that induced plenty of head scratching along with a rapturous, word-for-word sing-along.

Far from cringing at the relentless comparisons to the Fab Four, the Gallagher brothers seem to revel in them, as when Noel inserted a verse from ”Octopus’s Garden” into his rendition of ”Whatever.” As if that weren’t enough, the band closed the show with a by-the-book rendition of ”I Am the Walrus,” a staple of its act.

Asked to describe the group’s appeal, a 15-year-old named Colleen said, ”I dunno. They’re different. They’re from a different country.” Chris Hans, 13, who was attending his first rock concert, summed up the band’s appeal thusly: ”They just rock.” When asked to clarify the assessment, he leaned forward and impatiently bellowed, ”They just rock!”