High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher is currently wrapping up a world tour in support of his debut ‘solo’ album, aptly titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.  Since breaking free of the destructive relationship with his brother Liam in Oasis a few years ago, the elder Gallagher has put together a new band and is staking out his own musical turf.  The High Flying Birds recently came through my hometown in support of Snow Patrol.  It was billed as a co-headline gig, but Snow Patrol went on last and got a slightly longer allocation of stage time, so make of that what you will.

High Flying Birds gives Noel a perfect opportunity to take things back to square one and assume total creative control.  The set-list consisted mainly of songs from the NGHFB debut record, but Gallagher seized the opportunity to recapture some of the highlights from his glory days in Oasis.  At the Edmonton show, the band played the wistfully breezy “Talk Tonight” (a What’s The Story Morning Glory b-side), the anthemic “Supersonic” (from the Definitely Maybe album), rocker “Whatever” (a Definitely Maybe b-side), and closed with crowd-pleaser “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (from What’s the Story Morning Glory).  All were well-received by the crowd.

Given a little more stage time, I would love to see Noel Gallagher reclaim some of his other lost gems with his new band.  I don’t think there’s anything cheesy about the High Flying Birds playing Oasis songs if the principal songwriter was Noel.  Does anyone complain when John Fogerty rips into “Proud Mary” or Paul McCartney vamps on “Get Back”?  I don’t think so.

Here are a few songs that I hope NGHFB add to the set-list for their future gigs:

  • “The Masterplan” is a Morning Glory era b-side which is probably superior to everything on the album.  To this day, I have no idea why it didn’t make the original cut; I’ll speculate that it just didn’t fit into the unhinged party-rock vibe.  The introspective lyric might have clashed with the cocksure bravado of “Some Might Say” and “Roll With It” and the grandiose “Champagne Supernova”.  Or maybe Noel simply subscribes to the lost art of the double A-side, popularized by his heroes The Beatles.  None of that diminishes the power of this epic song.
  • Be Here Now was the follow-up to the worldwide breakthrough of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.  It is often (quite justifiably) presented by the prosecution as Exhibit ‘A’ whenever the subject of “Should rock stars be allowed to make records while buried in a blizzard of cocaine?” comes up down at the pub.  Every song on Be Here Now is at least two minutes and four choruses too long, but “Magic Pie” warrants a more back-to-basics reinvention by the High Flying Birds.
  • Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is nobody’s idea of a great album, but it does contain the endearingly paranoid and claustrophobic glory of “Gas Panic!”.  I think a fresh arrangement of this song would sit quite comfortably alongside the songs on the NGHFB record.
  • Likewise, the Don’t Believe the Truth album is short on highlights, but “Mucky Fingers” is an entertaining slice of four-on-the-floor glam rock that would still entertain the punters today.
  • The last Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul, never really connected with my soul.  It has its moments, but the album almost feels a little TOO overcooked for its own good.  I think a less self-consciously fussy arrangement of “Falling Down” could resurrect an excellent song by bringing the anthemic melody lines back out front where they belong.
  • Finally, I think that Noel Gallagher should set aside five minutes in the set-list to reclaim what I consider to be the best song he’s ever written.  “Little by Little” was released with little fanfare on the Heathen Chemistry album, but in a parallel musical universe this song would top the charts.  Noel ponders his place in the world, waxing philosophical about the meaning of existence and the perfection of imperfection.  All that is wrapped in one of his most memorable melodies.  It’s been said that the truly great songs still sound great when stripped down to just voice and acoustic guitar.  “Little by Little” exceeds this metric by a country mile, as anyone’s who’s ever heard the Craven Hermit’s whiskey-fueled campfire version would grudgingly attest.

Epilogue:  Noel Gallagher continues to give the best interviews in rock ‘n’ roll.  He recently granted an audience to The Onion’s A/V Club, who asked him about the financial success of the High Flying Birds adventure.  It sounds like the album and tour have been reasonably lucrative, for as the man himself puts it:

I’m coming out ahead. It’s all gone very much according to plan. The second album [with Amorphous Androgynous] ended up having to be scrapped. That cost me a fortune. I made a tour film, which cost me a fortune, which I also scrapped. But all that being said, I’ve come out ahead. My wife is thrilled about that. She gets a new kitchen. My children are thrilled. They get to go to schools without metal detectors. My cat. He’s thrilled. It means he’s not gonna get thrown in the canal anytime soon.

For the record, Noel’s cat is named Boots.  Noel would have preferred Mr. Whiskers, but sometimes in life you have to defer decisions to your four-year-old child.  Hey, it still beats working with Liam.


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