Noel Gallagher lays the ghost of Oasis to rest
Noel Gallagher lays the ghost of Oasis to rest

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Reverend And The Makers
Manchester Arena
Feb 13th 2012

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Noel Gallagher lays the ghost of Oasis to rest
Noel Gallagher lays the ghost of Oasis to rest

A packed arena is witnessing two bands who embody two different strands of the northern music spectrum united by a common touch.

The headline Noel Gallagher comes with his own massive history, the songwriter from one of the biggest UK bands ever whose talent was to write songs for the people and not be ashamed by it. Noel is in the middle of a world tour supporting his solo career that is taking off in a rush. The album has been in the top 10 since release and the stadium tour sold out fast.

The support are Reverend And The Makers, fronted by John Mclure the charismatic, tall, firebrand whose white soul voice with a Sheffield accent and quirky electronic crossed with indie songs initially had big success around the time of ”ËœHeavyweight Champion Of The World’

Returning with his third album, Mclure is back on form- moving away from the good politics that are still a key part of his thinking but digging deeper into the politics of the everyday for inspiration.

Mclure has managed to make art of out the mundane, music out of the kitchen sink and soundtrack the obsessions of everyday life and marrying this to stripped down and deceptively simple songs he has come up with his best album yet.

Live it works, the new single ”ËœBassline’ stands out and he gets a warm reaction, which is never easy when doing a stadium support.

They say there are no second acts in rock n roll but Noel Gallagher is fast proving them wrong.

He makes this solo thing look like a breeze, Emerging from the car crash of one of the biggest UK bands of all time he took two years out and re-emerged with his debut solo album that is packed with brilliant heartfelt tunes that coast with melody and imagination.

Leaving Oasis also gave him a chance to be himself, running with the gang is never healthy when you are over 40 and writing to songs to fit in with Liam’s persona can’t always have been easy. We are not knocking Liam here, his Beady Eye debut is also a great record in a different way and gave him a chance to assume his own creative control which he has done very well, it’s just that Noel fits very naturally into the singer songwriter mode. His songs are heartfelt and personal and would have been difficult to release under the Oasis banner, before the gig he explains to me that there were some songs that would have been too personal to get his younger brother to sing.

The gig is sold out, it’s been a fast rise for the solo Noel and they are with him all the way, singing along to those rollercoaster melodies as Noel runs through a long set that encompasses his own Oasis career because ”Ëœthey are my songs . I wrote them and they are part of my history’.

Because Noel actually goes to gigs and has never lost his everyman touch he understands his audience perfectly. Most musicians ditch the past, terrified of their own history, most would feel that a band like Oasis and its sheer scale would overshadow their work and not play the old songs. Noel knows that those hits are part of this story and that in the middle of the worst recession for years spirits need lifting and those songs are part of the process. He has rearranged them, stripped them down and delivers them with 16 000 voices singing every word and it makes sense.

These songs are part of the fabric of the UK, anyone who understands football and the power of communal singing, that feeling of togetherness, will get this- the power of the shared experience. It’s not that his new stuff is overshadowed, far from it, the new songs stand shoulder to shoulder with the classics and the reaction they get is equal to the famous old Oasis songs that soundtracked and signposted the nineties for most people.

Throwing down the gauntlet the set kicks of with two Oasis songs ”Ëœ(It’s Good) To Be Free’ and ”ËœMucky Fingers’ both are interesting choices because they are not mainstream Oasis tunes. This is not the greatest hits package to kick off the set, they show the strength the band has in depth and also underline the good moments that the band’s later and underrated albums had.

Then it’s onto the album proper with a run of classic new Noel tunes, ”ËœEverybody’s on the Run’, ”ËœDream On’ and then the classic ”ËœIf I Had a Gun…’ which has a 64-piece choir on stage adding to the sun. The choir are really effective and show the range of the show. Noel gets stick for being traditional but he takes his own chances and the variation of styles at the gig is really effective- from bluesy rock n roll to these pieces with a massive choir swelling the emotion level.

Backstage you can hear the choir warming up and it sounds disconcerting and unusual and very powerful, locked into the song they give it and added oomph. On other songs there is an added Kinksy style brass section- like when Ray Davies did Dead End Street and utilized the wonky, almost New Orleans style semi drunk brass section. The spirit of the great ray hangs over this new material, in particular the Kinks 1968 set ”ËœThe Village Green Preservation Society’ which saw the band release an album of almost vaudeville, very English songs in the middle of the psychedelic era which saw them fail to reach the top 30 but create one of the great all time albums. Noel has taken this very English flavour and twisted it though his own songs and made one of the best selling albums of these times.

The next few songs are another clutch from the album, ”ËœThe Good Rebel’, ”ËœThe Death of You and Me’ and the almost Beefheart titled, ”ËœFreaky Teeth’ songs that somehow manage to be stadium uplifting with the sing-along power of classic Gallagher and the poignant and personal. There are love songs which don’t come easily from the north, it’s easy to write about good times or war and hate and being angry and fucked up, it’s to write songs about drugs and going crazy but to stand there and sing songs of love is perhaps the bravest thing of them all- that’s the magic of music- you can say all the stuff that you can’t say in real life and this is what the solo album explores.

It’s this poignancy and emotional power that really connects with he audience, the melodies are there for singing along but the emotional undertow is what makes the difference. In Oasis it was the fascinating counter balance between Liam’s assured cockiness and burning, smouldering youthful anger and Noel’s soul searching that gave them the balance and the solo thing allows Noel to further explore this.

Mid set the old band is referenced again for two of their biggest hits, ”ËœWhatever’ and ”ËœSupersonic’ which are stripped down from the recorded big production jobs leaving lots of space for the audiences surging participation. It makes you realise that the lyrics to ”ËœSupersonic’ are bubblegum perfection- just like those great and underrated glam anthems of the early seventies making sense from nonsense with a series of non sequitars that are like the wallpaper of the day to day and capture a time of being young and carefree perfectly.
Next up is new album mainstay, ”Ëœ(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ – a very Noel title- meaning everything and nothing all at once. ”ËœAKA… What a Life!’ has a killer chorus, proving that he hasn’t lost his eye for a good tune and ”ËœSoldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ and ”ËœBroken Arrow’ give him the chance to stretch out.

The choice of Oasis covers is interesting. They were the last great ”Ëœb’ side band, if you are my age you would have grown up in the era of the ”Ëœb’ side, you would buy the seven inch single- the classic pop format and played the ”Ëœa’ side to death and then flipped it over and usually the song would have been a throwaway. The classic groups like the Beatles or Trex would have had a ”Ëœb’ side that would have been different but equal to the ”Ëœa’ side. Oasis did the same and on many releases there was a poignant Noel sung song counterbalancing the coke driven juggernaut of the anthemic lads taking over the world ”Ëœa’ side. ”ËœHalf The World Away’ is a classic example of this, and it’s that stripped down soulfulness shared with thousands of people singing along that is perfectly captured here, same with ”ËœTalk Tonight before they end the set with the climactic ”Ëœ(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’

The encores are pure Oasis, a trip back to the good times of Britpop and the feelgood music of that generation, that moment when the mainstream radio actually played the music that came from the British streets and for once the charts were filled with records that people would love forever.

”ËœLittle By Little’ has been rearranged to sound like it could have come from the current Noel solo album and sounds all the better for it, the genius ”ËœThe Importance of Being Idle’ which is one of my favourite Oasis songs- drips with the dark humour and melody of prime time Ray Davies, and is another exercise in vaudeville Kinks with added northern bluster and a song celebrating the work place, the skive, the getting your own back at the bosses by avoiding the pointless grind of the everyday. The set ends on
”ËœDon’t Look Back In Anger’ the ultimate sing-along- Noel Gallagher doesn’t even attempt the choruses and lets the audience sing along, the 16 000 northern voices sounding weirdly better than the choir on stage- not technically but in emotive, lager stained power as they join in unison for the coming together moment, a city united- anthemic and powerful and a perfect rock n roll moment.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Still realling after being there & being a contributor to the 16’000 strong Nothern Accented audience participation, I have to add that although the M.E.N is never my venue of choice there seemed to be a oddly rock n roll feel to the whole night. Swarms of boys in Pretty Green, khaki jackets & swagger of football matches. The reek of smoke that hung through the Arena from cigarettes smoked up the sleeves of said khaki jackets reminiscent of 6 form common rooms. Initially dissapointed at my seated ticket It wasn’t long until I settled smugly as I saw the lighting catching seas of full pint pots being thrown song after song so much I’m sure at one point it looked like you could have surfed down there.
    Amazing night, brilliant selection of songs & given the chance I’d gladly do it all again tonight.

    • Brilliant gig and, as has been pointed out, a perfect blend between the new High Flying Birds material and the older, Noel penned songs from the Oasis era.

      Every single song was greeted with a cheer, sang lustfully by the capacity crowd, and roared on at the end.

      There were quite a few ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moments: to hear “Whatever” again, the complete joy of singing along to the chorus of “What a Life” and the emotion of the crowd (and I suspect the Chief himself) when providing the vocals to “Don’t Look Back in Anger”.

      Incredible night which will live long in the memory.

  2. Nice, thoughtful write-up of great NGHFB gig, thank you, johnrobb. Interesting connections you made with Ray Davies (who uses the same choir, Crouch End Festival Chorus), and I’m glad you liked our singing (even if there were only 26 of us at Manchester, rather than 64 :-)
    Aberdeen done now, so roll on the rest of the tour …

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