Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 26/03/2016
Review: Emily Swanson | Photos: Annette Geneva
In this life but three things are certain: death, taxes, and a Gallagher brother having the power to lure any and all British ex-pats out on a Saturday night. If you have an English mate living in Sydney, there’s a good chance they passed up your offer of a cheeky frothy to take in the monstrous back catalogue of one of the UK’s most iconic artists.
It feels as though it’s been a long four years between drinks for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The last time we saw the former Oasis guitarist/singer was when we ditched Kanye West’s Big Day Out set to catch Gallagher’s first journey out here with his then-newly minted solo project. Once more it’s a festival that’s coaxed him to return – Byron Bay’s annual Bluesfest – and having missed his previous Sydney sideshow, we weren’t going to make the same mistake twice.
Even after all these years Noel Gallagher still has an incredible set of lungs on him. The cuts from his latest offering, Chasing Yesterday, came early in the set, with the infectious “nah nah nah nah nah nah” chorus of lead single “In The Heat Of The Moment” proving to be a groovy, danceable number before the album’s sprawling opening track “Riverman” took hold, and Gallagher slowed things down to showcase the song’s Santana-esque solo with his token red Gibson ES-355.
Perhaps the best aspect of a Gallagher show is watching the man interact with his audience. He’s grateful yet cocky – few people in this world can so successfully toe the line between arrogant and affable, and he’ll no doubt be the first to tell you that he’s done his fair share to earn the various accolades and praise heaped upon him.
“Is that a book with my face on it?” he asked a fan up the front at one point. “Is it any good? What’s it about? Do I die in the end? I do? How do I die? Having too much fucking money?”
Rather than shy away from his past, Gallagher whole-heartedly embraces it. After all, he’s the genius who originally penned the songs (as he will rightly remind you) so why wouldn’t he?
“I’d like to dedicate this song to all Oasis fans everywhere,” he announced, the crowd cheering and hollering at the prospect of hearing one of their old favourites. Psych! He launched into “You Know We Can’t Go Back”, because of course he did.
Thankfully the man didn’t leave fans hanging for long, and the dreamy, psychedelic rendition of “Champagne Supernova” that followed proved to be a high point in the set. But it wasn’t necessarily Gallagher that got it there. Of course an Oasis classic was going to resonate with this audience, but as the band finished the song, the crowd – unprovoked – launched into an extra chorus. A 5,000-strong crowd chanting the lyrics of their youth, in front of one of their heroes, with unrehearsed and on-point round. It was downright majestic.
“You never cease to amaze me,” Gallagher humbly told the crowd. “Every time I play that song you can instantly smell fucking weed. And there’s always some guy who wants to get ‘faster than a cannonball’,” he mocked. “If you lot want to keep singing all night I can just fuck off back to the hotel.”
What occurred soon after was a veritable feast for Oasis fans – “D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman” was followed by a hearty version of “Wonderwall” – much to the entire Hordern Pavilion’s delight – before “Sad Song”, “Listen Up”, “Digsy’s Dinner” and “The Masterplan” all came in quick succession. For a 19-song set, getting to hear nine Oasis tracks was not something to be sneezed at.
The show was rounded out with a three-song encore and came to a head with the magnificent “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. By this point punters had drank their fill and then some, and clusters of fans joined arms like the Britpop equivalent of the Barmy Army and used all the air in their lungs to belt out “And sooooo Sally can waaaaait…”
As far as we’re concerned, Mr. Gallagher can chase yesterday for as long as he damn well pleases.