Concert Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, March 29, 2016

Walking towards Margaret Court Arena on my way to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on Tuesday night, I was SHOCKED to see so many young kids and families making their way in.

Who knew that the ex-Oasis man had such a big following amongst school kids?! Here I was thinking kids are all into Beiber and One Direction when in actual fact they’re in the schoolyard swapping bootlegs from Cardiff 1996 and debating who was the better drummer out of Alan White and Zak Starkey.

Then I realised they weren’t going to see Noel Gallagher at all; they were all walking next door to Hisense Arena for Planetshakers Awakening 2016, an Evangelical Christian movement’s conference for followers to “seek, worship and encounter God”.

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Quite apt actually, because seeking, worshipping and encountering were exactly what the rest of us were planning as well – not for God though, but for the ‘God-like Genius’ who once claimed that God is an Oasis fan (I’m not religious myself but it’s pretty obvious to me that if he was real God would dig Heathen Chemistry).

Noel is 48 years old now, and the days of Oasis playing to packed football stadiums with bottles of piss being flung through the air are long gone. Instead, Noel takes to the stage at a very civilised 8:30 and without a word launches into ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, delighting a crowd adorned with Man City shirts, Pretty Green parkas and Adidas trainers.

It’s a testament to Noel’s solo career that his High Flying Birds songs are so well received. But while Chasing Yesterday is a bolder and better album than NGHFB, the songs from the latter are more anthemic and translate better live; especially ‘If I Had a Gun’ and the before-mentioned ‘Everybody’s On the Run’.

Out of the Chasing Yesterday songs, ‘Lock All the Doors’ and ‘The Riverman’ perfectly bookend his career. LATD was written in 1992 and sounds like it’s just been cracked open from a Definitely Maybe-era time capsule. ‘The Riverman’ on the other hand is a spaced-out jazzy number with a saxophone solo on it. Perfect antidote to the Oasis-haters who claim that everything Noel writes sounds the same.

Of course there are plenty of Oasis songs too – ten in fact, including ‘Wondewall’ (done in the style of Ryan Adams), ‘Champagne Supernova’ and a rousing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ that evokes a mass-singalong straight from the football terraces.

More interesting for the hardcore Oasis fans are the selection of B-Sides and album cuts rarely played in Australia before, including ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman’.  

This is my sixth time seeing Noel (twice with Oasis, once solo with Gem Archer, and now three times with NGHFB) and he sounds as good as the first time I saw him over a decade ago.

There’s some A-grade Gallagher banter thrown in, too. He’s particularly baffled – as I think we all are -by a self-proclaimed “magician” in the audience who somehow manage to bring a BUBBLE MACHINE into the gig. How the hell did he get that past security?.

“You’re a magician? Why don’t you make the fucking bubbles disappear then?”, he says. “Did you pay to get in? Or did you magic yourself through the fucking door. If you bought a ticket you’re a shit magician.”

It’s hard to find fault with your favourite artist, but if I had to be critical I’d say the setlist was too safe. Noel is infamous for sticking to playing the same set of songs, and I think the time has come to finally retire ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Talk Tonight’ – he’s played both the last 4 times I’ve seen him and it would be nice to hear something from say Be Here Now or Standing on the Shoulder of Giants for a change.

That minor criticism aside, Noel Gallagher at Margaret Court Arena again answered the question about when will Oasis reform. The answer: it doesn’t matter. This is just as good.

Setlist

Everybody’s On the Run
Lock All the Doors
In the Heat of the Moment
Riverman
Talk Tonight
The Death of You and Me
Champagne Supernova
The Dying of the Light
Sad Song
D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman
You Know We Can’t Go Back
Half the World Away
If I had a Gun
The Mexican
Listen Up
Digsy’s Dinner
The Masterplan
Wonderwall
AKA.. What a Life!
Don’t Look Back in Anger

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