A few songs into his set, Noel Gallagher had a quick interaction with a fan near the stage whose kid was attending her first concert.
“It’s all downhill from here,” Gallagher smirked.
For years the guts of Oasis, the stadium-filling (overseas) Britpop superstars, Noel Gallagher will always be known as the melodic maestro, the one who wrote those glorious guitar-jangle pop songs sung by his irascible brother, Liam.
Their Cain and Abel routine eventually led to the demise of Oasis in 2009 and the brothers Gallagher went their separate musical ways – Noel with his High Flying Birds and Liam with Beady Eye.
On Friday, Noel and the Birds (bassist Russell Pritchard, drummer Jeremy Stacey, guitarist Tim Smith – who hails from Atlanta – and a fill-in keyboardist for regular Mike Rowe, home with his wife and newborn), brought their vaguely psychedelic rock-pop to a sold out Tabernacle.
While no one will ever accuse either Gallagher of having a dented ego, Noel is wise enough to know that as good as his new songs are, he can’t abandon the Oasis classics that made him rich and established his musical identity.
Nearly half of the 20-song set harkened to Oasis’ heyday, from the opener “(It’s Good) To Be Free,” a blatant nod to his Liam-less career, to a gorgeous acoustic version of “Supersonic,” Oasis’ first single released this month in 1994.
But it was apparent from the first lines of the new “Everybody’s on the Run,” that the majority of Gallagher’s fans aren’t just Oasis holdovers, but respectful of his songcraft in general.
The singalongs were not only frequent, but hearty.
Granted, most of the songs on the self-titled High Flying Birds record would have snuggled comfortably on any Oasis album, so it’s not as if fans were asked to digest anything grossly unfamiliar.
“Dream On,” propelled by a simple but driving four-on-the-floor beat, proved itself a perfect pub anthem with its infectious “Shout it out for me,” refrain (the song as a whole, though, is rather bleak) and the not-yet-recorded “Freaky Teeth,” while a bit cacophonous, made your bones rattle from Stacey’s locomotive drumming.
But it’s the lilting melodies and head-bobbing choruses of “The Death of You and Me” and (“I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” that draw the inevitable Beatles’ comparisons. And why not? They’re sonic gems steeped in the history of Lennon and McCartney 101. That’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, as proof that Gallagher isn’t only about harmony and melody, “Half the World Away” and “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” are loud rock songs with little nuance, but plenty of muscle.
Noel’s voice is slightly deeper and warmer than Liam’s, and sounded clear and strong most of the 90-minute set. And while he isn’t a particularly showy frontman, his dry wit (sometimes tough to decipher through his thick Manchester accent) and lighthearted banter with those closest to the stage gave the impression that he’s perfectly content interacting with people, but the music is strictly on his terms.
Swapping acoustic or electric guitars after nearly every song and staying true to a set list established at the start of this nine-date U.S. tour (he played New York and California late last year), Gallagher clearly hasn’t lost his perfectionist edge. But as he sang “Whatever,” Oasis’ sunny declaration of independence, it was apparent that he’s loose enough to enjoy this new freedom to do whatever he chooses.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene blog
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