You really have to hand it to Noel Gallagher. Tonight in front of a capacity 3Arena he has the demeanour of a man on top of the world but with no way of showing it; his new album is getting generally positive reviews and you would be almost forgiven for finally losing sight of him in his former incarnation as Oasis’ commander-in-chief. He has undoubtedly fought to shake that monkey from his back and this new solo Noel, replete with a slight swagger and seen-it-all-before gruffness, is once again arena-ready.
A 20-piece choir take their place at the back of the stage under the scrutiny of a conductor as Noel appears, wearing the lines on his face far better than most men his age and hammers straight into ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’, ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ and Oasis b-side ‘Fade Away’ – the first of five slightly left of centre Oasis songs to be played tonight. “I know I say this a lot, but it really is good to be back here” he predictably (and probably disingenuously) shouts. ‘In The Heat of the Moment’ and ‘Riverman’, arguably the best tracks on the new album, sound silky smooth are a testament to Noel’s latter-day song writing. The familiar timbre of his voice and the ever present couplets being the only tangible link to his older work. His new songs sound well drilled and the contrast between them and those from his solo debut is rigorously displayed during ‘The Death of You And Me’, which sounds almost ditty-like when propped between his meatier, stronger new material. An acoustic version of ‘Champagne Supernova’, unsurprisingly, gets a fan-boy roar from every head in the venue before the outstanding ‘The Dying of the Light’ and equally as impressive ‘The Mexican’ are played.
For the most part, this is a solid and impressive display from Gallagher. If there are any criticisms to be thrown at him they can only be holistic, insofar as they should pertain to his overall music rather than his live performances of it. Some songs are fantastic and encapsulate the man perfectly, some are lacking in imagination and play it a little safe. Noel himself might even agree, the inclusion of the shite ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ perhaps his way of adding needle to the set. It’s nobody’s favourite, it doesn’t sound like anything he or Oasis would come up with unless forced or desperate. It is arguably only in there to try to mask a slightly bothersome habit of being bromidic. The night finishes with an undeniable flourish of long sought nostalgia, however, as the final two Oasis tracks create the heartbeat of a boisterous encore. There is nothing banal about singalong anthems like ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘The Masterplan’ and as Noel Gallagher steps back to allow the crowd to take the lead, he fucking well knows it.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds photographed for State by Ste Murray.