In a more sedate and refined setting to younger brother and media foe Liam’s storming Finsbury Park, London show precisely one week earlier, Noel Gallagher appears on a stage positioned in front of the River Thames, between the two college buildings that comprise London’s historic, Sir Christopher Wren-designed Old Royal Naval College to a fully seated crowd. A generation away from Oasis’ historic Knebworth Park shows for sure, but perhaps telling of the direction Gallagher Snr’s solo outfit has taken in the nine years since his former group’s split and the 20+ years that have passed since the peak of the Britpop movement they were at the heart of.
That’s not to say that Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds can’t equally play to large, standing, raucous crowds – as their upcoming festival appearances at Rock Werchter, BBK Live and Lollapalooza, Paris will no doubt reconfirm following a storming set at Poland’s Open’er festival alongside Nick Cave and Arctic Monkeys earlier this week. But tonight is about enjoying The Chief and his troop in the pleasant environs of historic Greenwich, the summer sun setting, and hits both old and new being aired as part of the Greenwich Music Time concert series – GMT, see what they did there?
Third album Who Built The Moon? opener Fort Knox kicks off Gallagher’s headline set, it’s distinctive faux-strings introduction reminiscent of Moby’s Extreme Ways before Chris Sharrock’s heavy drumming kicks the largely lyric-less tune into second gear as YSEÉ adds her high vocals.
1970’s glam-styled Holy Mountain gets the hips shaking across the now fully-standing crowd while the tempo is kept up by more from the current record in the form of Keep On Reaching, female backing vocals and brass adding a soulful throwback while continuing to demonstrate the breadth of styles Gallagher draws upon.
Single It’s A Beautiful World from the current record keeps the pace moving while the song’s rising chorus reminds us of the 51-year-old’s vocal range.
But before he can carry on, the first of many chants from The Lightning Seeds’ classic football anthem ring out across the crowd in celebration of England’s World Cup win against Sweden in this afternoon’s quarter final – “Football’s coming home” immediately diffused by 2014 single In The Heat Of The Moment. Later on in the night Gallagher goes on to scathingly say “I was in Scarborough last night, those fucking sang that between every song. They’ve literally got fuck all better to do.”
And The Chief keeps on ploughing through the songs without a word to the crowd, Riverman’s ripping guitar solo seen out with more soulful brass, further chants of “Football’s coming home” batted away with storming Chasing Yesterday single The Ballad Of The Mighty I, Gallagher’s ferocity getting the crowd moving.
“Good evening Greenwich, how’s everybody doing?” Gallagher says, finally addressing his audience some 40 minutes into the set. And in reaction to a young American fan holding a sign saying they’d flown over just to see him, the frontman responds “That’s bullshit, you’re really on holiday aren’t you?” deadpan. “Is it worth it so far? You be a good girl and buy yourself a t-shirt” he continues to laughs from the crowd before ploughing into the first Oasis hit aired tonight – 2000 single Little By Little – which finally gets the Greenwich audience singing wildly along.
The Importance Of Being Idle from 2005’s Don’t Believe The Truth delivers Oasis fans more of what they want from Gallagher’s former band before the Longsight-born man moves back to new material, If Love Is The Law followed swiftly by Dead In The Water, the delicate tune carried with Gallagher on acoustic guitar accompanied only by Mike Rowe’s piano.
Be Careful What You Wish For continues to demonstrate the musical diversity Gallagher continues to pursue with YSEÉ and Jessica Greenfield’s added female vocals broadening the soundscape. Latest single She Taught Me How To Fly is dedicated to the girl on the cover of Who Built The Moon? – the airy, dream-pop sound with singalong lyrics easy to get caught up in.
Classic Oasis B-side Half The World Away has the crowd singing along with every word once more but it is the opening acoustic guitar strums of the traditionally Liam-led Oasis classic Wonderwall that lifts the Greenwich audience to their feet across the open-air ground, Gallagher’s mastery found in the song’s simplicity.
AKA… What A Life! From NGHFB’s eponymous 2011 record, brings the main set to a foot-stomping climax, but as the group depart the stage, we know there’s more to come. The Right Stuff eases us back into the music once the band return but another traditionally Liam-sung Oasis hit in the form of 2000 single Go Let It Out gets any remaining half-full pint glasses launched across the crowd.
Nothing will ever take away from the feel-good, singalong nature of hearing Noel Gallagher lead an airing of Oasis staple Don’t Look Back In Anger, but tonight we get the paired-back acoustic rendition which defuses the climax being built up towards somewhat, something remedied by a cover of The Beatles’ classic All You Need Is Love to round out the evening.
As has been the case with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds since they started touring, the expectation might be that the set will be Oasis-heavy, but the fact that there are only a few classics peppered amongst the growing landscape of polished NGHFB material is actually what makes these shows the pleasure they are and so far removed from an Oasis gig.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds move on to Rock Werchter in Belgium and Bilbao BBK Live in Spain next before a tiny homecoming show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on 18th July.
Live review of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds @ The Old Royal Naval College by Kalpesh Patel on 7th July 2018.