After performing Don’t Look Back in Anger, the most popular Noel Gallagher-sung hit from his former band Oasis, at Saturday’s show at the Hordern Pavilion, the guitarist and songwriter had some typically immodest words for the audience.
“I know, I know. I get it,” he tells the crowd of mostly thirtysomething men, who are, rather predictably, going apeshit. “I’m the best. I’m the fucking best. Now go get a fucking T-shirt and leave me alone.”
The fact that Gallagher’s claim at world supremacy seems even vaguely plausible at that moment is a testament to both the bulletproof architecture of the song and the strength and depth of material he can draw upon after a career lasting more than 20 years.
Of course Gallagher’s persona is built largely on the notion that being seen to make an effort is an entirely contemptible notion. This is, after all, a man who only a few years ago got someone to film him driving and called it a video clip.
Accordingly Gallagher mostly plays as if welded to the floor. When, during Champagne Supernova, he tells the crowd: “If you carry on singing like that I can just fuck off to the hotel”, you get the feeling that might well be his preferred option.
On Saturday Gallagher began with a group of songs (Everybody’s on the Run, In the Heat of the Moment, Riverman) from his excellent solo albums Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Chasing Yesterday, which are enthusiastically received by all except for a man behind me who keeps shouting: “Come on Noel! Give us what we want!”
It goes without saying that it’s an extremely blokey audience. If, as a concertgoer, you feel you haven’t seen enough large groups of men with a beer in one hand swaying slightly or bellowing song lyrics into each others’ ears then this is certainly the show for you. In fact, there are so many signs of male-on-male affection that I feel a bit self-conscious kissing a woman during Wonderwall.
For those of us who slogged their way through the post-Be Here Now years of Oasis, Gallagher’s solo career has come as a blessed relief. In fact, in their latter years, Oasis had become such a dreary and repetitive proposition that Gallagher’s brief discovery of the saxophone on last year’s Chasing Yesterday seemed like an enormous artistic leap forward.
Despite his almost motionless stage presence, Gallagher’s ability to entertain has never been in doubt, whether on or off the stage. In recent years he has parlayed comedic irritability into an artform, offering wisdom in interviews ranging from why you shouldn’t be a drug addict after the age of 41 to why Adele makes it difficult for him to eat cornflakes and why, if you’re a musician, you shouldn’t stoop to trying to please the Guardian.
But what’s surprising is how expertly paced the concert is. The stagecraft is all fairly perfunctory: some vaguely psychedelic video here, some white light and smoke there. But no song outstays its welcome and the setlist is expertly balanced between beloved classics arranged with a new, more bittersweet texture (Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova), Oasis B-sides that Noel – rather than lead singer and brother Liam – sang in the first place (Half the World Away, Sad Song, The Masterplan) and the best of his new material (The Dying of the Light, AKA... What a Life!), which more than holds its own.
There’s no escaping the feeling that High Flying Birds are an entirely more professional outfit than Oasis ever were. Gallagher hits basically all the notes, there’s a lot more variety instrumentally – and he even manages to sing in front of the microphone. Whenever Oasis toured Australia you were never sure if Liam was going to wander off and never be seen again. It’s certainly novel to hear Oasis songs without having the lead singer making wanking gestures at the audience.
It’s not all perfect. Oasis B-side Listen Up gets a bit too bogged down in mid-tempo sludge and, despite being perfectly pleasant, I don’t think even the most hardcore of Oasis fans were exactly clamouring to hear D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman? again.
But overall it adds up to a short and sweet treat from one of the surliest men in rock.
This article was written by Stuart MacFarlane , for theguardian.com on Monday 28th March 2016 00.19 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010