Having contributed a couple of hundred magical, mysterious tunes to popular music, there’s little argument that the Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo is one of the most successful and influential in the history of modern melody.
But you always had to wonder if one or the other was doing all of the work while the other one was simply throwing in a random note or lyric here and there. At least we had their respective successful solo careers to provide us with a few illuminating insights.
Fortunately for all of this generation’s musical storm chasers, the “who’s really behind the best music” question has reared its delightfully ugly head again with every cross word between the battling brothers Gallagher, Liam and Noel, since Oasis’ 2009 split.
And in a bit of Beatlish déjà new, the winner of the debate is going to have to convince us with his solo work – Liam with Beady Eye, Noel with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Based on “exit polling” at last week’s Orpheum Theater gig, we’re calling this one in favor Gallagher the high flying elder.
The brilliant Britpop legend provided ample evidence during last week’s 20-song set, split almost evenly between Oasis tunes and new music from NGHFB. Gallagher ironically – perhaps intentionally – supplied the fans with the perfect musical bookends for the outstanding show with a pair of Oasis cuts, “(It’s Good) To Be Free” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”
“Anger” was the last of a four-track Oasis sing-along to close the show, preceded by “Whatever”, “Little By Little”, and “The Importance Of Being Idle”, that left all of Gallagher’s “veteran” fans fat and happy.
Hard to fathom, but some have actually questioned the inclusion of Oasis tracks in the High Flying Birds’ setlist on the current tour. Gallagher talked about it in a recent interview with the Arizona Republic.
“Why would I throw away 20 years of music to start again? They’re my songs. I don’t give a (expletive) what people say. What, would you rather go see Paul McCartney and have him not play anything by the Beatles because the (expletive) Beatles aren’t together anymore?”
“Please. Come on. (Expletive) grow up. D’ya know what I mean? I’ve always looked at the live thing like this. As long as I get to play what I want to play, then I’ll play what you want to hear. So out of 20 songs, I’m playing 13 or 14 new ones. And then, if you want to hear some Oasis songs, yeah, I’ll play some.”
And yes, the Oasis tunes were fantastic – supplying any risk averse long-time fans with a “safe place” to hang out during the show. But Gallagher’s new work was as good as anything he crafted with his prior band – better if you ask this unbiased Yank.
Savoring his newfound gig as a frontman, Gallagher led the Birds, Tim Smith (guitar), Russell Pritchard (bass), Mikey Rowe (keyboards) and Jeremy Stacey (drums), through a generous helping of NGHFB cuts, thoroughly justifying the band’s platinum certified debut.
Gallagher’s musicianship and songwriting mastery on the band’s eponymous first record has garnered ample critical acclaim. It seems that the former Oasis lead guitarist wasn’t just sitting around lamenting the passing of the legendary British band.
In a recent interview with Examiner, Gallagher talked about his approach in making the new record. “Honestly, I didn’t record this record any differently than I would have approached the next Oasis album, apart from the fact that it was just me making it and I could do whatever I wanted. But the mindset was still the same. I just wanted to make the best record as possible.”
It didn’t take long for Gallagher to put his money where his mouth was. After opening with a double shot of something old, the Birds gave the fans their first taste of something new with a six-song run of NGHFB tunes, including a poppy Fab Four tinged “Dream On”, a moody “If I Had A Gun” and a live Birds’ gem, “Freaky Teeth.”
Even the high flyers’ B-sides were A-plus, highlighted by the exceptional harmonies and relaxed acoustic feel of “The Good Rebel.” By the time the band sauntered through the playful melody of the not-so-playfully titled “The Death of You And Me,” the remaining skeptics in the crowd had become avid bird-watchers.
Gallagher sprinkled in a few other Oasis tunes later in the show, including an understated “Supersonic” and “Half The World Away.” But they were no melodic match for the Birds’ fresh cuts.
As NGHFB played the psychedelic laced “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine,” there was little doubt that some of the blissful fans were picturing themselves on a boat on a river…
The best of the best was the band’s latest single, “AKA…What A Life.” Recorded or live, it made no difference, the song was – and is – a monster. Give a listen to Gallagher and the band’s live version of the tune on Conan at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kALpdSSMRo&feature=results_video&playnex… .
The much too publicized brotherly tumult and unpredictability over the years may have unfortunately obscured the Gallaghers’ remarkable talent. But with an incredible performance at the Orpheum, the High Flying Birds left no doubt that one thing you can count on with Noel Gallagher is extraordinary music.