Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Live at the Pabst Theater. Opening act: Mona
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Setlist
(It’s Good) To Be Free, Mucky Fingers, Everybody’s On The Run, Dream On, If I Had A Gun, The Good Rebel, The Death Of You And Me, Freaky Teeth, Supersonic, (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine, AKA… What A Life!, Talk Tonight, Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks, AKA… Broken Arrow, Half The World Away, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach, Whatever. Encore: Little By Little, The Importance Of Being Idle, Don’t Look Back In Anger
OK, I’m not going to ignore the 600lb gorilla in the corner, the inevitable comparison has to take place, at least briefly. I last saw Noel Gallagher and Oasis back in 2002 on the Heathen Chemistry tour at the Chicago Theater and I’m struggling to recall if they were better than what I witnessed last night with Noel’s solo tour. I think not. Back in 2002 Oasis was at a crossroads, and a big one – both commercially and critically. Unfair in my opinion because their records since 1997 have been tremendously under-rated when impossibly compared to their triple-decker slam dunk releases in the early and mid-90’s. Those albums, Definitely Maybe, What’s the Story and the compilation The Masterplan are three classics in British rock that put them at the top of American radio for a short time, and forever in the upper ranks of British pop and rock. But that success was short-lived as the 90’s ended and for the first 10 years of the new century their releases have come and gone quietly and unjustly.
Fast forward to 2012 and we see the brothers of Oasis now divorced. Liam’s Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds. Let’s start with the runner-up. I am a Beady Eye fan. I have seen them on tour while standing 10 feet away from the stage. I am a fan of Liam – I think he has one of the classic vocal styles in rock history and certainly, unarguably one of the finest rock voices of the past 20 years. But let’s cut to the chase – there is simply no question anymore (not that there ever was) who the driving force behind the allure of Oasis was. Noel’s live show is 90 minutes of absolute divine rock and roll glory, from a man now on the end of his second decade of greatness. This is a show and a tour to not be missed. Noel’s ability to flow between Oasis songs and solo stomps is his quiet way of showing fans that the thread from Oasis to Noel is far stronger than any thread from Oasis to Beady Eye. Noel’s body of work over 20 years is on full display and what a display it is. From an acoustic rendition of ‘Supersonic’ (taken from the debut Oasis album) to the recent ‘If I had a Gun’, Noel’s fondness for Beatle-esque tunes firmly cements him as probably the greatest British songwriter since 1990 and in the top 5 worldwide, still. Lennon/McCartney would be proud!
The crowd at the Pabst in Milwaukee is admittedly, a little easy to win over. I stuck out like an albino as I walked around with no beer in both hands, but the crowd fed the show’s energy, all night. Noel’s ongoing chat with a lady in the front row, while heavy on the Brit accent was difficult to discern, clearly had something to do with her request of an Oasis classic – which Noel said was not on the setlist. He quickly instructed us that “I’m here to play the fucking songs I want to play” and the applause was like thunder. Noel saluted everyone in the crowd who bought a t-shirt (yeah, for $30 we appreciate that too) as we were announced as the “real fans”. It wasn’t a night of guitar solos for Noel, who declares himself first and foremost a guitarist. But his riffs, his humor with the crowd and his playlist were balls on. There are groups that create greatness as they’re brought together collectively, and then there are artists that have talent simply oozing out of them even when they’re alone. Noel Gallagher bleeds talent, and tons of it.
One last thing I realized. Noel has become a better vocalist than Liam. I never thought I’d say that. Certainly not 17 years ago when I first learned of Oasis and sang along with Liam to ‘Champagne Supernova’ out my car window 500 times. But Noel’s vocal style has stood the test of time and improved beyond Liam’s. Leaning perfectly into every tune Noel was outstanding in front of the microphone. Perhaps it’s personal taste, or just too many years and replays of Liam but I’m admittedly biting my nails until Noel gets around to his next solo release. Give me a double LP of new studio gems from Noel, something eclectic of course, and I’ll stand in line with my $20 for that slab of vinyl along with the other 1400 people last night. Cheers!