Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at 3Arena, Dublin – Photos & Review
Marking his return to Dublin, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played only the second show of their current world tour to a packed 3Arena last night. Having settled into his Paul Weller-style role of elder statesman of British rock following Oasis’ acrimonious split in 2009, Gallagher has just released his second album Chasing Yesterday. Ambling nonchalantly on stage just after 9, and backed by a large cast of musicians on stage, with a brass section and most surprisingly, a 20 piece choir who take their seats at the back of the stage, Noel and his band kick into Stranded on the Wrong Beach from their eponymous debut album. The lyrics apt for Noel’s now leading man status, “So long, I’ll see you in the next one, cause everybody’s been and gone, there’s no-one here but me”. But it’s the following song Everybody’s on the Run which sees the show really take flight, a song made for stadium venues, it’s epic choir-assisted intro fills every corner of the heaving arena. The outer space visuals on the impressive production screens only adding to the sense of scale. The adoring crowd roar every lyric back at the singer. However, despite the undeniable strength of his solo repertoire, the majority of the crowd in attendance are noticeably itching for Oasis songs, and Noel obliges with a stripped down rendition of an old B-Side Fade Away, with a series of nostalgic photographs providing a suitable backdrop on the video screens. Addressing the adoring throng for the first time, a leather jacket-clad Gallagher asks “What about you Dublin? I don’t say this many places, but it’s truly great to be back”. The feeling is more than mutual.
Opening with three familiar songs gets the crowd onside but problems soon arise. The most pressing issue with the show is the release of a new album just days prior to the tour. With fans having less than a week to familiarise themselves with the new record, the gig does suffer, a situation not helped by the amount of new songs played tonight as 7 of the albums 10 tracks get an airing. Released weeks in advance of the album, the surprisingly groovy lead single In the Heat of the Moment evokes a positive reaction with its catchy sing-along chorus, but the album tracks struggle to connect due to the crowd’s unfamiliarity. Despite its muted reaction, You Know We Can’t go back is a rousing epic which harks back to the anthemic qualities of Gallagher’s Oasis days, although one can’t help but imagine how much the song would be enhanced by his younger siblings iconic vocals. Likewise, Lock All The Doors brings to mind the snarling rock n’ roll attitude of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. Such songs help bridge the stylistic gap between both of Gallagher’s musical projects. On the more experimental side, the Pink Floyd-esque Riverman encapsulates the new mature sound of Gallagher’s writing, featuring a David Gilmour aping guitar solo, psychedelic lyrics and most surprisingly of all, a saxophone solo. Definitely Maybe it certainly isn’t. The wistful The Dying of the Light exhibits Gallagher’s maturing as a songwriter, as he reflectively sings “I was told, the streets were paved with gold, and there’d be no time for getting old when we were young”. It’s the type of poignant song you hoped a 47 year old Gallagher would write. Less successful is the mid paced guitar riffery of The Mexican, washing over the crowd with little reaction.
Tracks off the first High Flying Bird’s album make a welcome appearance, as Gallagher’s first post-Oasis single, the brass assisted The Death Of You and Me, sees the crowd at full voice again. The beautiful ballad If I Had a Gun and soaring 2011 single AKA…What a Life both go down a storm, showing Gallagher is still capable of producing such gems well into his fourth decade. As the opening chords of Champagne Supernova ring out, the venue erupts into a mass sing-along which never lets up over the song’s 6 minute duration. Seeing grown on their feet, eyes closed and arms aloft, bellowing out every lyric, you realise just how much Gallagher’s songs have soundtracked the lives of so many. The song engulfs the whole room, sounding as exhilarating tonight as it did when first released 20 years ago. Given the vast array of stone cold classics he has to choose from Oasis’ now-legendary back catalogue, some of tonight’s song choices are baffling. Shout It Out Loud, a rarely heard 2002 B-Side has even the Oasis devotees scratching their heads, whilst the choice of Definitley Maybe album track Digsy’s Dinner was confusing when the other possible selections are considered. Whilst it may be a wise decision to leave many Oasis classics untouched, Liam’s vocals on Roll With It and Cigarettes and Alcohol for instance, are simply irreplaceable, with some of the songs chosen tonight, the sense of anti-climax was palpable throughout the audience. This is remedied by a beautiful stripped down rendition of Don’t Look Back in anger, perhaps the most complete and timeless song Gallagher has ever written and it’s hard to spot a single soul throughout the vast crowd not passionately singing along.
As the night comes to a close, Noel begins the intro to The Masterplan. Bizarrely released as a B-Side at their 90’s peak, it has since become a firm favourite with audiences the world over. Its goosebump-inducing, string assisted chorus shows a side of Oasis the general public rarely got to see, and the song could stand up against any of their iconic singles. The entire crowd are on their feet drowning out their hero in the songs rousing chorus. It serves as the perfect song to bring the curtain down on an excellent night of music and sends the audience away on a high.
While the setlist may have divided the audience, with many pining for more of the old classics, it certainly was a brave artistic decision to keep pushing forward with new music rather than the trading on past glories (a road frequented by many of his contemporaries). It was billed as a Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds show after all? Overall, tonight showed that Gallagher’s creative flame still burns bright, with yet another strong album of songs just recently released. Maybe the close proximity of the record release and tour schedule could leave some time for the album to sink in next time?