Without sounding OTT, this was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best gigs of my entire life.
Although a die-hard Britpop/ Oasis fan, I was slightly too young too get admitted to any of their gigs (at the age of ten I would have looked a bit strange with a fag and bottle of beer in my hand) and sadly, I’m not sure there will be any Oasis gigs ever again so Noel’s solo project was the closest I was ever going to get to the Gallaghers without stalking Supernova Heights and then being arrested.
The O2 is a funny venue for gigs – it either works or it doesn’t. It was a Sunday night and there were no standing seats left so I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out. As the crowd gathered a diverse group emerged – made up of the stereotypical ‘LADS’ of the noughties, ‘LADS’ of the nineties (now balding and fat) as well as families, couples, girls, women and friends. The O2 provided a suitable venue for this eclectic mix as it acted as a football stadium and a cathedral simultaneously.
The Northern theme dominated as Gallagher was supported by Reverend and the Makers who really got the show going. Their sound is a bit sixties and reminded me of the Kinks – with sax, keyboard and feel-good rifts- and performed ‘Open your Window’ as well as the hit ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World.’ They were a bit more laddish (though a beautiful girl featured on keyboad) than Noel who’s all grown up now – though not as laddish as Oasis used to be.
‘If I had a Gun’ (the experimental version reminiscent of the Beatles Indian phase) set the stage while we waited and Noel was cool as ever and was ten minutes late as the anticipation grew and the birds were released out of their cage. He opened with ‘Dream On’. There was no small talk – he won the crowd over straight away with his lyrics and guitaring. A beautiful rendition of ‘Talk Tonight’ came next and it was a relief that he was going to play old tracks as well as the new ones off ‘High Flying Birds’. The anthems filled the stadium and he was clearly touched by the audience’s support. ‘You’re too kind’ was followed intermittently by ‘Fuck off.’ And that is why I love him.
There were a couple of shouty ones that nobody knew the lyrics to but he had to play them to prove he wasn’t a soft touch.
The highlight for me was ‘If I had a gun’ which was hymn like – he had a choir who all looked to be in their fifties but sang like angels – and the O2 was filled with a yellow light and was glorious. The acoustic version of ‘Supersonic’ made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – thousands of people singing in unison ‘You need to be yourself/ You copy no-one else’ was awesome as it was ironic.
He played most of the tracks off ‘High Flying Birds’: unlike Liam’s, his voice is still as strong as it was back in the ’90s. Noel has matured and this album reflects this – it is more cynical than previous albums: in The Death of You and Me he sings ‘I can feel the storm clouds sucking up my soul’ but it’s still got some of the hope and some of the feeling of the trail-blazing Britpop-moulding 1994 album, ‘Definitely Maybe.’
After the encore he played ‘Whatever’ and the choir were welcomed back. It was magnificent. I wanted him to play ‘Wonderwall’ but that did seem a bit obvious and also felt like Liam’s song. This more than sufficed – ‘Whatever’, like ‘Wonderwall is written in B minor – the grand, sad key – and possesses all that energy, fire and grand melancholia of being young and idealistic – and the sense of longing that goes with it – and everyone can relate to that, whoever you are.
Of course ‘Don’t look back in Anger’ finished the show and friends, families, couples all danced and sang their hearts out before all piling out of the O2 and on to the packed tubes heading into the impending doom that only Monday morning can bring. Before that though the three friends who we’d been watching turned round and held up an imaginary microphone. They were sublimely and blissfully drunk as we all happily sang ‘ So here I go/ I’m still scratching around in my same old hole/ My body feels young but my mind is very old.’ He turned around and beamed ‘I’ve been waiting ten years for this,’ he said.
And as some were being sick while others were planning their Monday morning escape route from work we all had the feeling that we’d been a part of something special Near the tube a busker sang ‘Tonight I’m a Rock n roll star.’ And every single one of us felt like one.
You can hear Noel Gallagher’s set on Absolute Radio on ‘Noel Gallagher Night’, Sunday 7th March starting from 7pm.