You can’t accuse Noel Gallagher of false promises. “I’m not doing an encore,” he announced, “because to be honest with you I’m off to see Prince and he’s on in ten minutes.” The purple superstar was indeed performing a small semi-secret show on the same night that Gallagher was doing his own, but while Prince was staging a star-studded charity bash Gallagher was doing a gig above a pub that harked back to the early days of Oasis.
Stage production stretched to a black cotton banner with the initials for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds chalked in white. A crowd of men with mod-tinged feather-cut hair threw plastic beer glasses at each other. There was excitement in the air that few could reasonably have expected from a solo gig by Gallagher, who walked out of Oasis in 2009 after brother Liam threw a plum at his head.
There are differences, though. Oasis specialised in brutal rock’n’roll in which anything vaguely esoteric was stamped on, but Chasing Yesterday, Gallagher’s forthcoming second solo album has touches of cosmic jazz. It’s cosmic in the sense of a beer-drinking beat band getting out the kipper ties and adding an organ solo, but the difference is there. In 2011 Gallagher made an album with the psychedelic production duo Amorphous Androgynous and although it was shelved the influence remains.
The concert began with (It’s Good) to be Free, an Oasis B-side from 1994, which was so exciting for the 40-year-old mods in the audience that they had no choice but to get up on each other’s shoulders and sway from side to side. From then on solo material dominated and with it Gallagher proved that he’s drawing from a wider palette than before. On Riverman, one of the best songs on Chasing Yesterday, there was a saxophone solo. Back in the glory years of Oasis even listening to a saxophone was a sackable offence.
Gallagher expressed surprise that a man in the audience knew all the words to Riverman before realising that the man worked in his office. In the main the concert stuck to the kind of emotional rock’n’roll for which Gallagher has such a knack, with the biggest singalong of the night saved for the Oasis classic Don’t Look Back in Anger. It’s an anthem with lots of feeling and no sense whatsoever, making it a perfect accompaniment to the sloppy sentimentality of drunkenness. Then, just as he promised, Gallagher took off to see Prince.
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