Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 11/18/11
Royce Hall – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
As an individual who attends an extremely high number of concerts, it’s rare for me to be excited days before a show. Yet for the last two weeks, I have been bouncing off the walls ecstatic for the evening of Friday November 18th 2011 as that would be the night I would descend upon the UCLA campus for a performance from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. I admit I was one of those foolish Yanks who gave up on Gallagher’s previous band Oasis around the turn of the century. Yet thanks to my pal Sim showing me the errors of my ways, I have become obsessed not just with Oasis, but with the guitar playing and songwriting skills of Mr. Noel Gallagher. With Gallagher’s High Flying Birds releasing their debut album a few days ago, it has been on heavy rotation to the point I broke the “never listen to an artist driving to their show” rule as I braved rush hour traffic into Bruins country.
Having missed the opening set by The Hours in order to drink a few beers with various friends, I found myself in my seat moments before Gallagher and his High Flying Birds hit the Royce Hall stage. Despite my high number of concerts attended over the past 15 years this was my first visit to Royce Hall and I must say it is an extremely classy joint. The high ceilings and fancy décor of Royce Hall only added to the already existing feelings that Gallagher’s second sold out night in Los Angeles was truly something special. When Gallagher and his Birds hit the stage at 9pm opening with the Oasis favorite “(It’s Good) To Be Free” those feelings went into overdrive.
While I expected Oasis songs in the set, the 1-2 opening punch of “(It’s Good) To Be Free” and “Mucky Fingers” shocked me as I assumed High Flying Birds materials would begin the night. However what this accomplished was exposing those who were hardcore fans versus those who simply got a ticket for being VIP and were looking for a soundtrack for a Friday night glued to a smart phone. With roles determined and the mood now set, the opening double shot of Oasis songs eased nicely into the first of many High Flying jam of the night entitled “Everybody’s On The Run.”
When not performing recent radio hits including “If I Had A Gun…” and “The Death of You and Me,” Gallagher was having a blast busting balls with various individuals screaming out song requests. Having already shared that he was not going to play anything that wasn’t on the setlist (which he spent a good five minutes writing) Gallagher taunted one individual who repeatedly screamed for “Acquiesce.” At another point a fan screamed for the Japanese B-side “You’ve Got The Heart of a Star” which led Gallagher to sharing that song had never been played live in any form and that he should have no problem whatsoever just playing it off the cuff.
With a handful of shows under their belt, the band is at that point where they all know their exact rolls and can focus on where the music can go instead of simply getting through the set. That freedom was most noticeable during “Freaky Teeth” a song that is heavily rumored to be the next Bond theme. The opening licks most certainly indicate that it will accompany Daniel Craig and a bunch of big budget Hollywood magic, the song proved the group can really crank out maximum rock and roll when they so choose.
Midway through the show, Gallagher strapped on an acoustic guitar and gave those on their phones a reason to finally tune into the show. A mini acoustic set of Oasis mega-hits kicked off with “Wonderwall.” Performed more like the Ryan Adams version than the version found on What’s The Story (Morning Glory), the capacity crowd joined Gallagher singing along to the man’s biggest stateside hit. A fantastic version of “Supersonic” followed with similar results.
While various B-sides and Oasis songs found their way into the set at random moments, I realized by the time the group was performing “AKA…What A Life!” that we were getting the songs from the High Flying Birds album in the order they appear. By the end of the evening, all songs with the exception of “Stop The Clocks” had been performed. One song that didn’t really stand out on the album but was outstanding live was “AKA…Broken Arrow.” Most noticeable was how strong Gallagher’s vocals sounded. No disrespect to his younger brother Liam, but the performance made you wonder why Oasis ever needed him in the first place.
The main set concluded with “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” with fans chanting for more Noel. Gallagher and his band returned for a three song encore of Oasis songs that kicked off with Heathen Chemistry track “Little By Little.” The fan sing-along continued into “The Importance of Being Idle” but it was clear the highlight was the evening’s final song “Don’t Look Back In Anger.” For the first time all night fans jumped up and down in front of their seats excited for the other American Oasis smash hit. While the leaps of fans looked nothing like a crowd at Wembley Stadium the fact members of a Los Angeles crowd jumped up and down at all was rather remarkable.
While only 90 minutes in length, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds second sold out Southern California performance was truly magical. Without a doubt a top five show for the year 2011 in my book, I pray the group returns when the rumored second more experimental album drops next year. Now the question in my mind is; how will Beady Eye even come close to such an amazing experience when we cross paths at the Wiltern in a few weeks?