By John Curley
The sold-out show by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, February 15th showed that Gallagher, over two decades into a stellar career, is at the top of his game. Gallagher’s third post-Oasis release, Who Built The Moon?, is easily the most eclectic album that he has released. Making such an album was a gutsy move for an artist in Gallagher’s position, and the gamble has been rewarded with a work that has gotten considerable radio airplay and is a success with both the critics and his fans.
Gallagher (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar) has assembled a talented band to back him for the album and the tour that is currently drawing sell-out crowds in North America. The band includes Mike Rowe (keyboards), Jessica Greenfield (backing vocals and additional keyboards), Charlotte Marionneau (tin whistle, scissors, spoken French, tambourine, and backing vocals), Yseé (backing vocals), Russell Pritchard (bass and backing vocals), a three-piece horn section (saxophone, trumpet, and trombone), and two of Gallagher’s former Oasis bandmates, Gem Archer (lead and rhythm guitar) and Chris Sharrock (drums). Marionneau, who also leads the band Le Volume Courb, caused a bit of a sensation in the British music press late last year when she played the scissors during a performance by the band on BBC-TV’s Later…With Jools Holland.
The band’s one-hour and 45-minute performance on Radio City Music Hall’s massive stage featured a 17-song main set and a four-song encore. Gallagher and company kicked off the festivities with an extremely trippy and incredibly loud performance of “Fort Knox” from the new album. Yseé provided very effective backing vocals to the song as fast-moving psychedelic images were shown on the screen behind the band. Gallagher’s amp was covered with a large banner from his favorite soccer team, his hometown’s Manchester City FC.
The lead single from the new album, “Holy Mountain,” was up next, and it drew a massive cheer from the packed house. The band was all in magnificent form during the performance of the song, and the horn section added a nice punch to it. That was followed by the rocker “Keep On Reaching,” which also included impressive work by the horn section.
The latest single, the bass-heavy “It’s A Beautiful World,” was up next, and it featured terrific guitar work by Archer and a French spoken-word vocal by Marionneau through an amplified telephone during the instrumental break. A heavy take on “In The Heat Of The Moment” followed, and the horns added quite a kick to it.
The horns provided punch to “Riverman,” which also featured Archer’s stellar playing. The crowd gave a big cheer to “Ballad of The Mighty I,’ which was highlighted by Sharrock’s peerless drumming. “If I Had A Gun…” gave a nice spotlight to Gallagher’s vocal ability. And the crowd-pleasing “Dream On” was a great band effort to which the horns added considerable kick.
The audience roared with approval for the back-to-back performances of the first Oasis songs of the evening, “Little By Little” and “The Importance Of Being Idle.” The crowd sang along in full voice to the former and gave a massive hand to the tight performance of the latter.
The trippy “Be Careful What You Wish For” followed, and featured Yseé on backing vocals. Very effective psychedelic video was shown on the screen behind the band with images of the band and swirling colors, quite reminiscent of the 1960s German TV music program Beat Club.
One of the biggest cheers of the night by the audience was for the performance of the Oasis song “Wonderwall,” and the crowd sang along in a full-throated roar. Sharrock and Archer stood out during the performance of the rocker “She Taught Me How To Fly.” Following the shimmering “Black & White Sunshine,” the performance of the Oasis song “Half The World Away” got a huge reaction from the crowd. The main set came to an end with a great band effort on “AKA…What A Life!”
During the interval between the main set and the encore, Gallagher could be heard talking and joking on a backstage mic. The encore began with just Gallagher and Rowe onstage. They did a mellow performance of the new song “Dead In The Water” that featured Gallagher on acoustic guitar. The full band then returned to the stage and ripped into a heavy take on the Oasis song “Go Let It Out,” which was highlighted by fantastic performances by Sharrock and Archer. The audience sang along throughout. They followed that with an epic version of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” to which the crowd sang along in full voice. Archer provided some nice guitar work during the song. The evening came to a close with a fantastic cover of “The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” The band was firing on all cylinders, and the horns provided nice color to the song. The crowd roared as Gallagher and the band exited the stage.
This show was Gallagher’s best New York City performance since a 2005 Oasis show at Madison Square Garden, and his is surely one of the must-see tours of this year. There is a ticket package available that permits fans to see a pre-show exhibition of memorabilia from throughout Gallagher’s career. That memorabilia includes the handwritten lyrics for some of the biggest songs of Gallagher’s career. The last United States show of the North American tour takes place in Los Angeles on March 13th. That is followed by a festival appearance in Mexico City on March 17th. The band resumes touring after a few weeks off with an April 3rd show in Paris. That will be followed by headlining and festival appearances that stretch into the summer. Full tour dates can be found at https://www.noelgallagher.com/live.
The set list was as follows:
Keep On reaching
It’s A Beautiful World
In The Heat Of The Moment
Ballad Of The Mighty I
If I Had A Gun…
Little By Little (Oasis song)
The Importance Of Being Idle (Oasis song)
Be Careful What You Wish For
Wonderwall (Oasis song)
She Taught Me How to Fly
Black & White Sunshine
Half The World Away (Oasis song)
AKA…What A Life!
Dead In The Water
Go Let It Out (Oasis song)
Don’t Look Back In Anger (Oasis song)
All You Need Is Love (cover of song by The Beatles)