By John Curley
When Noel Gallagher performs at home in the UK, he usually plays huge venues . So, getting to see Gallagher’s show at the more-intimate (1500-capacity) Webster Hall in New York City on Thursday night, May 7th was a genuine treat. On the way into the venue, a fair amount of British accents could be heard among the crowd. Apparently, they felt it was worth it to make the trip across the pond to see Gallagher’s show in that kind of environment. Gallagher did seem a bit frustrated that the crowd wasn’t engaging him more during the show, and told the audience in quite colorful terms to talk to him.
Webster Hall was sold out for the show, and the crowd appeared to be revved up from the word go. Gallagher opened the set with the new song “Do The Damage.” (It’s the B-side of the “In The Heat Of The Moment” single.) The crowd reacted very positively to the song, cheering loudly with some in the crowd yelling out Noel’s first name over and over. Many in the crowd were holding their drinks aloft in a salutatory gesture to Gallagher. While Gallagher’s audience is largely considered to be a group that favors lager, a very pungent marijuana smell wafted through the venue about halfway through the show.
Having once been the main songwriter in an iconic band like Oasis, Gallagher had to do a bit of a balancing act when putting together the set list: a new song here, a track from the first solo album there, and a few Oasis classics sprinkled in as a reward to the crowd for supporting his music endeavors for the past two decades.
The first Oasis song to get an airing during the concert was Fade Away,” which was the fourth song in the main set. And the crowd roared. That was just a precursor to the audience reaction to the Oasis tunes that were performed later in the set. The performance of “Champagne Supernova” got a massive cheer from the crowd, and many in the audience were singing along with every word. “Digsy’s Dinner,” a lesser-known Oasis track, also got quite a hand from the crowd. Many people in the crowd were dancing throughout the performance of the song, which caused the balcony to shake quite a bit. “The Masterplan” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” both performed during the encore, were epic. It seemed like the entire crowd was singing along to “Don’t Look Back In Anger” at the top of their voices, and the combined might of the audience’s shared vocal actually drowned out Gallagher’s vocals a few times during the song.
While Gallagher’s career will probably always be most celebrated for his tenure with Oasis, he has forged quite a formidable solo career with the first two albums under his own name. Gallagher’s first solo album, the self-titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, was excellent, and the follow-up, which is titled Chasing Yesterday, proved to be equally good. Seven of Chasing Yesterday’s 10 tracks were performed during the show. Of the new songs, “Ballad Of The Mighty I” got the biggest reaction. And “Lock All The Doors,” a frenetic rocker, received quite a nice hand as well. A master craftsman as a songwriter, Gallagher apparently likes his songs to sound live as close to the studio versions as possible. Some might find that thinking flawed, but Gallagher seems to believe “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He has commented in interviews that he has felt the most comfortable in his career when he is in charge, when things are done his way. And that showed in the stellar performance at Webster Hall.
Gallagher was backed at the show by his terrific band, High Flying Birds. The band features keyboardist Mike Rowe, Jeremy Stacey on drums, bassist Russell Pritchard, and Tim Smith on guitar. The band was augmented by a three-piece horn section (saxophone, trumpet, and trombone) that played on quite a few songs throughout the set. The horn section added a great deal of punch and color to the songs, particularly “The Masterplan.” The horn section was apparently recruited fairly recently and, when doing the band introductions, Gallagher claimed not to know their names.
Videos and film were projected on a screen behind the band throughout the show to fit the mood of each song. For example, the video used for the dreamy “Champagne Supernova” was a bit trippy while the one used for the heavy-duty “Lock All The Doors” was more intense.
Gallagher and the band played a 17-song main set followed by a three-song encore. They were onstage for 100 minutes.
The Webster Hall show was the third of Gallagher’s North American tour. The tour closes on June 7th back in New York City with an appearance at the Governor’s Ball Festival. Gallagher performed a terrific version of “Lock All The Doors” on NBC-TV’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, May 6th, the night before the Webster Hall concert. (That clip can be seen on The Tonight Show’s Web site at http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/noel-gallaghers-high-flying-birds-lock-all-the-doors/2864349.) And Gallagher and his band will be the musical guest on CBS-TV’s The Late Late Show With James Corden on Monday, June 1st.
The set list from the Webster Hall show was as follows:
Do The Damage
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
Everybody’s On The Run
Fade Away (Oasis song)
In The Heat Of The Moment
Lock All The Doors
The Death Of You And Me
You Know We Can’t Go Back
Champagne Supernova (Oasis song)
Ballad Of The Mighty I
The Dying Of The Light
Digsy’s Dinner (Oasis song)
If I Had A Gun…
The Masterplan (Oasis song)
AKA…What A Life
Don’t Look Back In Anger (Oasis song)