Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
October 27th 2011
One thing is for sure, that Oasis reunion looks a long way off.
There was some talk in the press of Liam offering an olive branch, whether that was a misquote or a post Roses surge of excitement makes little difference, Noel is a man in a hurry and with gigs like this there is little reason to get the old gang together.
The later days of Oasis were full of underrated albums and stress, the tensions of being in a rock n roll band can get unbearable and that pretence of running with the teenage gang starts to get wearing. The ever astute Noel has grown up with his audience. There is no attempt to play the forever young card here as he steps out onto the Apollo stage with his new band to a fervent atmosphere. Of course there are few shocks, no-one buys into the Gallaghers for the avant garde- that is other band’s jobs. This is about anthemic songs that soundtrack people’s lives, the kind of songs that stir emotions in grown men who usually don’t do that emotional stuff and they sing along arm in arm equally to the old Oasis classics that Noel has dusted down like ‘Look Back In Anger’ or ‘Half The World Away’ or my favourite ‘The Importance Of being Idle’ and the songs from the new album that slot seamlessly into the set with their big tunes and nice psychedelic flourishes that colour in their Noel-pop and give everything a unique twist.
By playing the Oasis songs, Noel has taken command over the catalogue. There is something quite cool about this. Whilst most musicians beat themselves up over whether they should play their old songs or not Noel has just picked a selection of greatest hits, obscure b sides and songs that define him and placed them in his set. Afterall he wrote them, he owns them and he can play them. What’s cool is that he has stripped them down from the bombast of the big stadiums and made them more intimate- the way the were initially written. ‘Look back In Anger’, which is the kind of song my beloved Mott The Hoople would have written in the glam rock era sounds perfect taken down to almost just an acoustic with some keyboard flurries, afterall with 5000 people singing along there’s not much space for anything else. This skeletal version gives the song an extra emotional edge. Songs like this were built for the community singalong, the joining in, the eternal camadarie and the current versions of the old songs sound like Noel of before Oasis- a cool kid armed with an acoustic guitar stockpiling songs as Madchester raged. The solo Noel sounds closer to him as a person than Oasis, certainly not the tabloid version of the band- the bad guys, the later day punks with ready made ‘V’ signs and lots of swearing, the kind a caricature of northerness that the press love to put down. Of course there is still the chipper humour and football banter but there are also songs of real emotional content.
In reality Noel is a smart, intelligent and introspective songwriter and this is coming through in the new album. There have been endless hints of this before in Oasis, those b sides, the odd album track when the anthems were laid aside for the more emotive side to come though, the side we hide in the north. That’s the key to the set tonight- the new songs, they show a flowering, a post big band rush of creativity that even the chief must feel. That realisation that your are writing for yourself and not the expectations of the machine.
The new stuff sounds powerful without being overblown, the album which went in straight at number one this week is already in the hearts of the audience who know every word and sing it in a massive beery wall of warmth from the opening ‘ (It’s Good) To Be Free’ and ‘Mucky Fingers’ before cascading into the rest of the set…Everybody’s On The Run… Dream On… If I Had A Gun… The Good Rebel… The Death Of You And Me… Freaky Teeth…a run of great songs, the backbone to the album that sees him launched Weller-esque from the carcrash of the old band. He takes ‘Wonderwall’ back for himself, and then remoulds, ‘Supersonic’ before Record Machine, What A Life, Talk Tonight, Soldier Boys And Jesus Freak, Broken Arrow, Half The World Away, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach…songs that mix and match tripped out sixties with glam rock, a touch of Trex and a nod to mod, classic british songwriting, songs to soundtrack a generation growing a slight bit older but still up for it.
The encore is meltdown, the afformentioned, Don’t Look Back In Anger, the fab The Importance Of Being Idle and a reworked Little By Little. Next year he’s playing the stadiums but not the Stone Roses gigs, Noel may be thrilled to have the Roses back but he’s very much his own man on his own path as Liam, who’s Beady Eye have sold far less records than Noel but was a fine debut that will be re-evaluated one day, found out this week with the reformation rumours firmly quashed.