It’s the second gig in Dublin in less than six months for Noel Gallagher‘s High Flying Birds, this time in a sold-out O2 Arena after they made their live debut at the Olympia Theatre. Safely back in the big league again, the risk free approach he’s taking this time round seems to suggest that he has nothing to prove. Starting the show with the old Oasis B-side ‘It’s Good To Be Free’ is a contradictory statement, however. If the band is now history, why still play the old fan favorites ? Besides, material from the High Flying Birds‘ release (the sing-along of ‘Everybody’s On The Run’, the psychedelic road-trip ‘Aka … What A Life’) get a far better reaction. Arrangement wise, all is played to the letter and there’s little room for improvisation. Except for the clanking drums of Jeremy Stacey, the show rolls out perfectly like a red carpet on a gala evening.
Despite of the “fear of bigger stages” Noel has talked about in recent interviews, it’s hard to deny his capacity as a frontman, solidly rocking tracks from both his Oasis-era glory and the solo record, and sharing some cynical punch-lines between (as the crowd cheers in football-stadium fashion he retorts “You know I’ve got a plane tomorrow morning, right ?”). His voice is better this time too, a noticeable improvement on their first tour.
While Noel is the captain of the ship, pianist and keyboardist Mike Rowe may very well be its lighthouse. The former Oasis member is the salt and pepper of this band, the foundation of most of the catchy hooks and build-ups. Tonight, old tricks are resurrected: classics like ‘Half The World Away’, ‘Talk Tonight’ and the acoustic version of ‘Supersonic’ play their role as a safety net but weigh down the set-list, dropping the tension.
The highlights come from new hits delivered in a relaxed way thanks to the addition of a three piece brass section and a fifty piece male choir. Each time they appear, the songs move into a different dimension and sound as big and ambitious as they were first imagined. When the 14,000 capacity crowd shouts ‘Dream On’s chorus, ‘If I Had A Gun’s first lines or the entire ‘The Death Of You And Me’ lyrics, you realise the magnitude of Noel’s talent after 20 years of songwriting. Simple classy melodies that few could ever write, heart-felt and universal words, all packed in gorgeous and moving cinematographic instrumentations, played with the firepower of the studio versions. Ending predictably with anthems ‘Little By Little’, ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ and the always goosebump-enducing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, the gig revealed two opposite truths about Noel Gallagher: he’s now got all the tools and confidence to start anew, but he also carries a heavy burden that he’s going to have to leave behind if he doesn’t want to be the slave of his own legacy.
Photos: James Goulden.