Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live Review: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Newcastle Arena, 23/02/2011

It's taken a while, but now that the waters have finally settled following Oasis' acrimonious split it's pretty clear which Gallagher has emerged on top. While Liam has spent the past year toiling away in medium-sized venues with his mundane Beady Eye project, older brother Noel has dived straight into the arenas on his first full tour since the breakup, with this packed Newcastle date doing much to confirm that enduring popularity. The promise of old Oasis classics has no doubt helped his cause, but the same could be said of the runaway success of his Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds album, which kick-started a long overdue solo career back in October. As well as being met with a wave of critical approval, the record also achieved the improbable in that it toppled Adele from the summit of the UK's album chart, if only temporarily - and it was that success which rendered this show so much more than a mere nostalgia strip.

After beginning with a couple of relatively unheralded Oasis numbers in '(It's Good) To Be Free' and 'Mucky Fingers,' things were quickly ramped up a couple of notches by the introduction of 'Everybody's On The Run,' the opening song from that solo record. On top of his excellent core backing quartet, this song also saw Gallagher joined on stage by a 25-piece choir and small brass section (which went some way towards explaining the outrageous ticket prices!). Far from being an expensively funded exercise in indulgence, though, their additions performed wonders on an already excellent song, adding not only scale but also welcome back up to the main man's vocals, which truth be told are limited to a certain range. That extra manpower reappeared on numerous instances throughout the night, with perhaps the most memorable  occasion coming shortly afterwards during 'If I Had A Gun.'

Already a classic less than five months after release, it's arguably the finest song that Gallagher has penned since his mid-nineties pomp, and along with the similarly brilliant 'AKA... What A Life!' was by far and away the best received of the solo material. It says a lot that they stand up favourably alongside the likes of 'Little By Little' and 'The Importance Of Being Idle,' generally regarded as the highlights of Oasis' post-millennium exploits, but understandably it was the earlier cuts which generated the most enthusiastic response. It still beggars belief that Gallagher had the audacity to toss aside 'Talk Tonight' and 'Half The World Away' as b-sides back during his band's hot streak, and it came as little surprise that they were afforded a reception just as rapturous as the indispensable 'Supersonic,' which worked surprisingly well when stripped down to just guitar and keys. Predictably enough, though, the best was saved until last, with the era-defining work of genius that is 'Don't Look Back In Anger' closing out the show in the best manner imaginable.

Seventeen years since it practically engulfed the nation, it was clear how much this masterpiece of a song still means to those who grew up with it, and as you'd expect there wasn't a tight lip in the house as each and every one of its nonsensical words was bellowed back amid scenes of sheer elation. He's not a man prone to modesty, but even Gallagher himself seemed slightly touched by the ovation, and it's not hard to understand why when thousands are sharing in your crowning moment of glory. It was the highlight of the night by a ridiculous margin, but that shouldn't detract from what a success the rest of the show was - particularly the High Flying Birds songs which didn't seem out of place at all amongst such illustrious company. Indeed if his live shows can maintain this balance between nostalgic adulation and fresh additions, there seems no reason why Noel Gallagher can't remain a relevant force in the music industry for plenty more years to come.


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