June 10, 2019

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Live Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Heaton Park, Manchester


Noel Gallagher at the Leeds First Direct Arena during the Stranded On The Earth world tour (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Lest we forget Big Brother.

During the past week it’s been something of a bonanza for those of a Gallagher persuasion. To recap, last week Noel released the main B-side of his forthcoming EP; within a matter of minutes Liam had stolen his thunder by unveiling a snippet of his own forthcoming single. Then the campaign for Liam’s second solo album began in earnest with an intimate gig, interviews aplenty and the required PR for a new documentary entitled As It Was.

Knowing what we know of Liam, it’s unlikely to be coincidental that all this took place in the week of his older brother’s biggest ever solo gig. Yet you wouldn’t know it: Noel continues to rise above with no acknowledgment tonight (June 7th).

There is enough to be going on with, not least of all the weather. The whole of the UK is feeling the effects of this sodden Friday, and it’s far from ideal for a big gig such as this.

 

That said, it is Manchester and the music of main support act Doves works well in this environment. Their music carries with it a bleak and industrial quality which fits the mood, but it’s a bit of a slow start. Snowden and Firesuite open the set and, as elegant as they are, lack the required power to grab attention. Fortunately, the stomping Black And White Town follows and lifts the crowd, the Motown beat getting the bodies dancing.

The hiatus hasn’t done them any harm, and the trio are clearly very comfortable working together again. Their best album, 2002’s The Last Broadcast, is most utilised for the set and from the moment Pounding is delivered midway the bar is raised. Caught By The River could keep rising forever, Last Broadcast is a winding, dramatic symphony and their dance roots are on full display for There Goes The Fear, but the highlight of the set is first album cut The Cedar Room, which is bruising but beautiful. Cockles warmed.

Still theoretically daylight but basically dark because of the weather, the stage is alight for the thunderous Fort Knox. The High Flying Birds currently number seven bodies, and all contribute to the cacophony of the opener. Ysee is a truly impressive singer, and nowhere is she better utilised than on the controversial track from 2017’s Who Built The Moon?, her vocals resonating across the field. The first half of the album makes up the first five songs of the set, and while the album wasn’t to everyone’s taste there’s no denying the tracks work really well live. The glam ride of Holy Mountain is now a favourite, and the band is stretched to the limits by the variation of Keep On Reaching and It’s A Beautiful World for different reasons; the former never stays still while the latter is a lesson of musical restraint. Elsewhere, new single Black Star Dancing slots into the set well, the bassline (‘borrowed’ from Bowie’s Fashion) sounding colossal in the open air.

After a testing opening for the parka monkeys, the band slip into more familiar territory. Talk Tonight, Little By Little and The Masterplan give 30,000 sets of lungs a good warm-up for Stop Crying Your Heart Out, the main set closer. At the time of release it was a perfect representation of where Oasis were in 2002; a number two single but a by-the-numbers flag bearer. Noel’s revaluation of the song reminds us that few of his peers have his knack for creating a chorus, the crowd likely heard from Manchester city centre four miles away. Likewise for the sublime Dead In The Water, surely one of the best things he’s done this century and proof that, even with the best production in the world, it always comes back to Gallagher’s songwriting.

The High Flying Birds were always meant to be an evolving collective (evidenced by Scissor Queen Charlotte Marionneau having to temporarily step away from the tour in the days leading up to the gig), but Gallagher will do well to better the current line-up. Mike Rowe, Chris Sharrock and Gem Archer all bring their Oasis experience to the table, but should never be taken for granted. In particular, Archer’s solos on both Little By Little and The Masterplan transcend the rest of the song. Equally, Jess Greenfield on keys and backing vocals adds a lightness of touch and a specific groove, and Zuton Russ Pritchard does everything that is asked of him on bass and is the tent pole around which everything else revolves.

The encore is a hat-trick of Oasis classics, Whatever, Half The World Away and Don’t Look Back In Anger, and by this point the band are accompanying the audience rather than vice versa. In a rare moment of interaction, Noel encourages a round of applause, not for the players but for the crowd. All You Need Is Love closes out the set and everyone heads off into the night, singing.

The excitement of the Oasis gigs was in part down to not knowing which band would turn up, whereas the High Flying Birds are much more consistent and are soaring at present.

That reunion just gets further and further away.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 10 Jun 2019 at 8:13am 


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