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High-flying Noel

Love him, hate him, or lie somewhere in between, there’s no denying that Noel Gallagher has been one of the most significant and influential English songwriters of the last 20 years. The quality of his output has been obscured by lazy accusations of being nothing more than a Beatles’ derivative, and by the dopey headline-grabbing self indulgence of his slightly more famous but less gifted brother. If you can get over those blind spots, it is much easier to appreciate Gallagher’s worth as a songwriter.

In late January I went over to Melbourne, with a mate, to see Gallagher play with his new band, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, at The Palais Theatre in St Kilda. I’d seen him perform unplugged in Perth in 2006, and I’d watched Oasis back in 2002. This was something else again, however; a brand new band. Sure, I could have seen him do a set in Adelaide at the Big Day Out, but the gig would have been of a much shorter duration and I would have had to contend with Soundgarden playing at the same time on the other stage. So it was off to Melbourne I went...

The concert was brilliant. Total Noel. A reasonably well-oiled and expectant crowd packed the sold-out Palais, and the classic (It's Good) To Be Free welcomed one and all to the show. After a couple of songs Gallagher invited everyone to stand up, because sitting down at a rock concert is kind of, well, you know... Everyone stood, and stayed that way until the gig was done. I guess you don't mess with Noel; this might be the mellow 45 year-old version but he knows what he wants, and expects to get it.

poster boy
poster boy

getting it on
getting it on

The next couple of hours amounted to nothing less than a dream come true for yours truly. There are moments in life that should never be taken for granted, or rationalised in that safe way we have, and this was one of them. Fever pitch. Noel Gallagher’s songs are filled with blatant hooks, singalong choruses, triumphant chord progressions, and lyrics that paint with a broad brush; make of them what you will…

The set was evenly split between songs from the new album and timeless Gallagher classics, made famous by that other band. The High Flying Birds' album is great, so I wouldn't have cared if he'd concentrated solely on new material, but I was happy to hear Britpop classics such as Whatever, Talk Tonight, Half the World Away and the rousing Don't Look Back in Anger, a fitting closer.

Seemingly, the entire audience was happy to sing, as if their lives depended on it, those last two songs out loud. Without being asked.

There’s no denying that Noel Gallagher still has plenty to offer. Just ask him.

© Copyright David Robinson, 2012

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