24 January 2012
It’s always good to play in front of a home crowd, and even though Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds were half the world away, a cursory glance around the Enmore Theatre more than confirmed that this was a crowd heavily made up of Englishmen - the large number of sentences that ended in ‘innit’ or ‘dyawhatimean?’ gave the game away. This is Gallagher’s first solo jaunt, and, more vitally, his first outing as the frontman of a band. Unlike Beady Eye, who forged ahead with defiance and a brand new set of songs after the Oasis split, the elder Gallagher wasn’t afraid to look back, with almost half the set made up of Oasis songs – though as Gallagher told our sister publication THE BRAG last week, they were never Oasis songs, they were his songs. Which stands to reason, and there were certainly no arguments from the audience members when he dipped into his enviable back catalogue.
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On a purely technical level, Gallagher has assembled a righteous crew to back him up; the band is easily the equal of latter-era Oasis (which is impressive considering that band featured an ex-Ride member and Ringo’s son) and halfway through the set it struck me that this marks the first time Noel has had anyone to harmonise with his lead vocals during a set – in Oasis days Liam would exit the stage when Noel took the lead. These harmonies were provided by Zutons bassist Russell Pritchard – who blagged his way into the group through a mix of moxie and proximity; The Zutons were recording in the same studio as Gallagher when he offered to play bass for him – and help the band achieve that 1966 sound that Noel always aimed for but couldn’t achieve with Liam’s full throttle snarl.
Understandably, the newer tracks weren’t received with anything approaching the furor given over to the Oasis numbers, but neither was the induction of Obama. Wonderwall came early in the set, with Gallagher performing the Ryan Adams rendition of the song, something he has done since Adams breathed life back into the song in 2003. ‘I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now’ is still such an achingly beautiful line that literally billions* of spins haven’t smashed it into dull submission. Oasis’ first single Supersonic was given the acoustic treatment, and despite the lyrics being pure gibberish, Gallagher’s perennially mournful vocal gave this song a new solemn weight. Talk Tonight was given the opposite spin, the intimacy of the original (in which you can actually hear Gallagher taking off his watch) forsaken for a full band version. Halfway through the set Gallagher unleashed a new song, possibly from his forthcoming second record, most likely something he whipped up backstage between drinks with Kasabian (who were lurking sidestage for most of the set). A dense, drone-driven song, it points towards further psychotropic adventures for Gallagher and co. As with the entire set, it’s already on YouTube, captured in iPhone glory.
The most extraordinary thing happened as Gallagher and co. left the stage prior to the inevitable encore; the entire theatre morphed into a football stadium, an impromptu football chant began, and I’m pretty sure it rained lager, too. The three-song encore more than sated the rowdy football crowd. The Importance Of Being Idle, which Gallagher claims is among his top five songs, but in actuality would barely scrap into the second eleven (still stretching the football analogy) deadened the mood before the final song; in which the audience rose from their seats as if for the national anthem. If you’ve ever heard a stadium full of Oasis fans chant the chorus of Don’t Look Back In Anger, this may as well have been the case.
*Obviously, this isn’t too literal, but who knows. Maybe? Definitely maybe.
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