Rock Concert Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Live at Boston Opera House
The highlight of the concert came at the midway point, when Noel Gallagher started strumming an acoustic guitar as a tambourine tapped behind him.
By Adam Ellsworth
If Noel Gallagher ever gets tired of rock and roll, he can always make a living doing stand-up. The former Oasis leader wouldn’t even have to write any jokes; he could just wait for members of his audience to run up the aisle and engage him and then let his lightning quick wit do the rest.
Thankfully, big brother Noel has not given up on music, but his comedy skills were still on full display last Saturday night at Boston Opera House as he bantered back and forth with the crowd throughout his 20 song, 90-plus minute set. Topics covered included the similarities between the New York/Boston and Liverpool/Manchester rivalries, his need to create “more shit” to sell before he returns to the Hub, and, most enjoyable, the need for young bands to include contact information, song titles, and their band name when passing him demo CDs. A video is making the rounds online that relates to that last one, and it speaks for itself.
The night wasn’t all jokes of course. There were tunes as well, most of which came from Gallagher’s solo career and spanned from the opening B-side “Do the Damage” to the main set closing “If I Had a Gun…” “Do the Damage” featured bright horns that were provided by a local brass section, and straight ahead rock guitars, thus making it representative of so much of the music heard Saturday night. The first of what would be many crowd singalongs happened during the chorus of the concert’s second song “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach,” a track off of Gallagher’s post-Oasis debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and an especially impassioned vocal from Noel on “Everybody’s on the Run” and a fairground feel for “The Death of You and Me,” both of which taken from that debut, were two more highpoints from the set’s first half.
As for Gallagher’s latest release Chasing Yesterday, the singer-guitarist focused on rockers like “You Know We Can’t Go Back” and “Lock All the Doors” and slower songs like the moody “Riverman” and the ballad “The Dying of the Light.” This meant that the album’s best (and most adventurous) song “The Right Stuff” wasn’t performed, nor was the dancey “Ballad of the Mighty I,” but within the context of the concert this wasn’t an issue. I still say that Chasing Yesterday was a missed opportunity, but Saturday night proved that when the likes of “The Dying of the Light” and “Lock All the Doors” are divorced from what could have and should have been (i.e.-a truly psychedelic and experimental album), and surrounded by more traditional sounds from Noel’s career, they stand up.
As enthusiastically received as all these songs were, it was no shock that the warmest receptions were saved for Noel’s performances of Oasis tunes. Here, Gallagher’s selections were top-notch, and at times genuinely unexpected. While “Whatever” and the night’s final song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” were obligatory (which doesn’t mean that they weren’t amazing, because they were), the acoustic, laid-back and jazzy version of “Fade Away” and the extra-spunky take on “Digsy’s Dinner” were a complete and welcome surprise. Additionally, “The Masterplan,” which began the show’s encore, was pleasantly resurrected. Once considered the all-time “Oasis B-side that should have been an Oasis A-side,” the tune was noticeably absent from Noel’s first solo tour. Perhaps last year’s boxset re-release of Oasis’ classic second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, which features demos, live cuts, and B-sides including “The Masterplan,” moved the song back to the front of Noel’s mind.
But the highlight of the night came at the midway point, when Gallagher started strumming an acoustic guitar as a tambourine tapped behind him. “You will be required to sing some of this,” he told the crowd before he produced a familiar, but not immediately recognizable, melody. Within seconds of Noel beginning the song’s opening “How many special people change, how many lives are living strange, where were you while we were getting high?” the audience realized they were being presented with the seminal Oasis song “Champagne Supernova” and responded appropriately. A full-throated, goose bump-inducing, singalong followed. It brought to mind the oft-repeated quote “Oasis is the sound of a council estate singing its heart out.” That saying dates back to the ’90s. It turns out that two decades later, it still applies. Even in opera houses.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played:
Do the Damage
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
Everybody’s on the Run
In the Heat of the Moment
Lock All the Doors
The Death of You and Me
You Know We Can’t Go Back
The Dying of the Light
AKA… Broken Arrow
If I Had a Gun…
AKA… What a Life!
Don’t Look Back in Anger
Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine, KevChino.com, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has a MS in Journalism from Boston University and a BA in Literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.