Ask a hundred people what they think of Noel Gallagher and you’d probably get a lot of variety in the answers: brash egomaniac, arsehole, a bit of a cunt. His reputation as a brutally honest interviewee definitely travels with him. But one thing you’ll likely hear from everyone you ask is that he is a brilliant songwriter-one of the best over the past 20 years. Last night in Chicago he brought out his band on his birthday and rocked through 20 great tunes, including a few Oasis songs. I might be one of the few people who was actually excited when Oasis broke up because Noel could finally do his thing.
The setlist hasn’t changed much, or at all really, for this North American tour. The band played a couple shows in Mexico earlier this week with identical songs. No problem for me because it’s a really good set. They opened with “Do The Damage,” the b-side for the “In The Heat Of The Moment” single. This launched a 4-song assault of fast, aggressive rock n’ roll songs that seemed to be played like they were on the run and had to finish quickly. A half-step ahead of the studio versions for sure. The last song in this block was the Oasis track “Fade Away,” and the crowd exploded upon it’s first notes.
Noel did have some fun with the audience, who sang him “Happy Birthday” during one of the shows few quiet moments. In the lead up to “Riverman” he announced that the song had a sax solo and pointed out his sax player in the back. Then he said, “It’s called ‘Live Forever,’ which caused the audience to lose their collective minds. He came back to the mic and said “With a sax solo??? Come on, ya fuckin’ idiots.” At one point he thanked the audience and said “I’m gonna play a bunch of songs off my new album. I know that’s why you’re here.”
There was definitely a part of the crowd there solely to hear some Oasis songs, but the number of people singing along to High Flying Birds tracks wasn’t too surprising. Their first record is really good. They played my favorite tracks off that one, “If I Had A Gun” was the main set closer and “Death Of You And Me” seemed to please a lot of fans. Chasing Yesterday didn’t make a big impression on me, but the live versions of “The Mexican” and “In The Heat Of The Moment” have me reconsidering my initial assessment.
About halfway through the show there was an electrical glitch that caused the microphones to all cut out at the same time. The guitars were still loud, but after a minute during “The Mexican” Noel realized that no one could hear him and the show was stopped. House lights went up and the band left the stage for about ten minutes. During that time the security guards at The Riviera were handing out water to people in the crowd, as it was about a million degrees inside the venue. The band came back, apologized for the delay, and launched right back into “The Mexican.”
When they came back the second time, leaving after “If I Had A Gun” and returning for the encore, Noel said it felt stupid to even leave after just having to come off for the delay. His introduction to the first song of the encore was “This song is fucking brilliant,” and the ever-humble Gallagher could not have been more right. “The Masterplan” has long been my favorite song Oasis ever released. It was amazing to finally hear it live in person.
The enthusiasm died down a bit on “What A Life!,” but it came right back for the final song of the night “Don’t Look Back In Anger.” A song that is an absolute classic worthy of ending a show, no doubt. Looking around watching people sing along and hearing the music hall fill with thousands of voices never gets old. I could only imagine what it’s like for a singer to get that kind of response for a tune night after night.
I’m really glad I got the chance to go check out this show, and highly recommend any music fan check out a live set by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Just don’t expect them to play “Wonderwall.”