NOEL GALLAGHER - LIVE @ THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
By James Briggs
“I’ve played with a lot of bands...and he’s a cunt”, this is the withering verdict of the support band for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. “He didn’t even give us a soundcheck”. Ouch. Except it’s Noel Gallagher, who else, mouthing these words. He is the support act. Or perhaps it’s Oasis.
Two balding men have their own difference of opinion going on to the right of the stage. Their flying fists replacing the flowing flags more familiar at this venue. The crowd roar, the lights go down and we ready ourselves for the British working class hero.
I recently encountered some, shall we say, ‘millennials’, in a record shop holding cold press juices. They sneered at an Oasis re-release on vinyl. As a child of the 90s, they were, talking ‘bout ‘my generation’.
And it’s true, tonight’s crowd are ageing. Hell, there might even be a few grannies here... Perhaps feeling his 48 years, or just steadying himself for later, Gallagher sits to perform a semi-acoustic set comprised entirely of Oasis songs. Alongside ex-bandmate Gem Archer, he plays a clutch of flip-sides, rarities and bonafide classics. ‘Wonderwall’, is delivered with a slight inflection on the lyrics, catching the audience off guard. He dedicates a heartfelt, ‘Slideaway’, to his wife. A progression from the twenty-something girl who inspired the song by breaking his heart. ‘Cast No Shadow’, meanwhile, is played out amongst a boyfriend and girlfriend having a full blown domestic which ends with her storming out, only to return and throw a puffer jacket in his face. North Face to the face.
But that’s just it. Songs like these transcend time, as well as lovers. The crowd are still ‘mad for it’ - growing old (dis)gracefully. A woman yells something lewd at Gallagher. He turns to her and says “I’m just guessing here, but you’ve had a few”.
Indeed, the interval bar is doing a brisk trade. Aubergine on sourdough eschewed in favour of two pints. Each. A round. The fan boys haven’t grown up. It’s like the Coronation Street Christmas disaster episode where a lorry crashes into The Rovers Return and covers its custodians in Pretty Green, Paul Weller wigs and Clark’s Wallabies.
Noel returns to the stage with the High Flying Birds clad in a leather jacket. He looks more T-Bird than Thunderbird as he tears through, ‘Everybody’s On The Run’, assisted by the Crouch End Choir. The congregation aren’t only here for the Oasis tunes (and beer) (and fighting), they bellow every word back to him. His solo stuff is more polished and mature, the dirty riffs of ‘The Mexican’, and the wistful, ‘If I Had A Gun’, show he can still shred a riff and pen a tune. But some of these new cuts lack the raw charm and urgency of his youth. Those classics are undeniable. A vintage, ‘Champagne Supernova’, sending a shiver down Fred Perry clad spines.
People are getting carried away. A woman runs on stage, planting a smacker on Gallagher. Momentarily, for once, he’s speechless. It’s a dizzying setlist. Fans clamouring for an Oasis reunion have the song, ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’, dedicated to them. But as he nails a perfect rendition of ‘Whatever’, does he really need to? Even if we haven’t moved on, maybe he has. His solo credentials shine once more as he strums the set’s final tune with more than a twang of irony. ‘Half The World Away’, recently plagiarised by a Christmas commercial is stolen back for the people. Leaving the stage to ear-splitting adulation, he wishes us a, ‘Merry Fucking Christmas’.
The crowd aren’t off for mince pies just yet, though. We’ve stopped fighting, we’re still going on the booze, we’re all hugging each other. Blimey, we’ve just disco danced to ‘Digsy’s Dinner’. After the encore of ‘The Masterplan’, people are as high as Gallagher when he wrote, ‘Be Here Now’. Noel stops the piss taking. He looks around, gives a little shake of his head and seems genuinely humbled. Treating us to a final glorious, Last Night At The Proms, rendition of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, the curtain falls on Gallagher’s 2015. “Thanks for sticking with me”, he says. And he means it.
His final words, though, are saved for the forty-something ‘lad’ who’s been acting like a 15-year old in a park with a bottle of White Lightning all evening. He points with a smile and says, “You fucking behave yourself”. But this is all Gallagher’s doing. He’s written songs a generation adore, see themselves in - whose lyrics they live, love and fight by. To the haters and the cold press kids; where were you while we were getting high?
‘(It's Good) To Be Free’
‘D'Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?’
‘Cast No Shadow’
‘The Importance of Being Idle’
Main Set (With Band):
‘Everybody's on the Run’
‘Lock All the Doors’
‘In the Heat of the Moment’
‘The Death of You and Me’
‘You Know We Can't Go Back’
‘If I Had A Gun’
‘Half The World Away’
‘AKA...What A Life’
‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’.