We all heard it. Twice. Maybe three times. A laugh, then a giggle; a bona fide expressions of amusement between songs. Where were we? What was happening? This was meant to be a Noel Gallagher gig. He never laughs! Despite all media reports, the king of cranky seemed to be enjoying his headline show last Tuesday night at Margaret Court Arena, nestled within Melbourne’s sporting precinct (as a mad soccer fan, perhaps therein lies the reason).
But it wasn’t long before something pissed him off, and it came in the form of a guy blowing bubbles in the front row. “Hey Houdini!” Gallagher remarked in his deadpan Mancunian accent, “you actually bought a f***ing bubble machine to a gig? What, you’re a magician? Why don’t you make the f***ing bubbles disappear then?” It was tongue-in-cheek chat of course, but he had a point – why bring a bubble machine to a Noel Gallagher gig? It was rock n roll, the High Flying Birds and not the Powderpuff Girls. “Did you pay to get in? Or did you magic yourself through the f***ing door. If you bought a ticket you’re a sh*t magician.” He then remarked that if he, the bubble guy, made it into all the reviews of the show, he’d be in “f***ing big trouble.” Oops.
Flanked by his band the High Flying Birds, the 48-year-old frontman was in the company of a three-piece horn section and cruisey rock keyboard and guitar combo. Best known as one-half of 90s Britpop icons Oasis, which he lead with his equally controversial brother Liam Gallagher, Noel certainly didn’t shy away from mixing his old stuff with his new – much to the relief of the diehard Pommy fans in the audience, and believe you me, there were lots! The crowd was either made up of Oasis fans or fans of the High Flying Birds and Oasis, and generous in his setlist, Noel played half of each era.
The band found their groove with ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ and ‘Lock All Doors’, but slightly disappointingly, Noel left all the fretboard magic up to guitarist Tim Smith and we barely got a look at his own famous finger-work. ‘Talk Tonight’ was the first of the Oasis tunes, but it soon became clear that nearly every second song was going to be one. ‘Champagne Supernova’ got everyone singing in the seats “someday you will find me caught beneath the landslide, in a champagne supernova in the sky.” Although Liam was the original lead vocalist, Noel – the writer – has always sung it just as good. During the ballad-y ‘Sad Song’, Noel encouraged the more impatient fans to go and check out the merch desk, after all, that is what pays for all his “fancy shit” on stage.
Even Oasis b-sides ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman’ and ‘Half the World Away’ couldn’t escape a sing-a-long, as it became obvious that Noel’s fans knew every one inside and out. He went acoustic mid-set, beautifully strumming and cooing the goosebump-inducing “oohs and aaahs” on the romantic rollicking ‘If I Had A Gun’. There’s a big softie beneath that grumpy beatnik exterior! The subtly vaudeville-esque Flying Birds bopper ‘The Death Of You And Me’ came complete with a projected circus backdrop, and it was impossible to not tap your feet to the catchy drum, fiddly guitar and brass combination.
Then came an Oasis trilogy, ‘Listen Up’, ‘Digsby’s Dinner’ and finishing off with the awesomely apocalyptic ‘The Masterplan’. Most of Noel’s songs are short and sweet, but can pack a lyrical or melodic punch where they can. I was desperately missing Chasing Yesterday’s new single ‘Ballad Of The Mighty I’, but the encore just about made up for it.
Kicking off with a much reworked ‘Wonderwall’, it didn’t matter much to the crowd who stood and swayed to the famous refrain, even if it was paced a little differently “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me, and after all, you’re my Wonderwall.” The cinematic and whistle-intro ‘AKA… What a Life!’ was a groovy and moody middle choice, before the crowd blew the roof off singing epic Oasis closer ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. The verses were loud enough, but everyone geared up for that iconic chorus: “And so Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by,” we sung, arms up, fists punching the air, “her soul slides away, But don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.”
It was the perfect finale, inclusive and enthusiastic, and Noel even managed another smile. So, in the words of ‘Champagne Supernova’, where were you while we were getting high? On bubbles. On music. On life.