NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
Nobody wanted to cover Noel Gallagher. Well, nobody from the Fuji Rock English team requested to watch and report on him and his High Flying Birds Sunday night, which might seem a little strange. He was more or less the brains behind one of the biggest bands of the 1990s, and if nothing else, his appearance at the end of Fuji Rock 2015 made him THE headliner of the weekend, the proverbial exclamation point to the gathering.
Then again, it wasn’t like I begged to check him out either. I just won the lottery to stand out in the Green Stage for a little over 90 minutes and watch Gallagher do his thing.
Yet here’s a twist — I liked Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird, the act most people on Twitter digi-rolled their eyes at and who multiple people offered condolences to me upon hearing I’d have to watch him, like my pet had died.
Given the collective raised-eyebrow Gallagher got before Sunday night, I now offer a few reasons why he was actually a fantastic choice.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ songs are completely tolerable
More so than Noel’s general old-man crankiness that comes across in interviews or even the fear of having to stare down the spectre of Oasis, I feel most people wanted to stay far away from having to write about Gallagher’s headlining spot because of his new material. Which is to say — what do you say about the songs he’s written in this project? Oasis superfans turn away for a second — can you even name one of the songs he’s written since Liam and him wrestled around in a Paris dressing room?
Turns out, Noel Gallagher’s recent work mostly just sounds like mediocre Oasis songs, peaking out at “pretty good” and only tanking once (“The Mexican,” opening with the shudder-inducing “they say you need love/just like a kid on crack?”). Very little of it is inspiring, but none of its terrible either. It’s completely there, peppered with enough winks to Gallagher’s beloved ’60s music where even if you get bored, you can basically play “Where’s Waldo: John Lennon edition.” Yet listen closely….
Noel Gallagher played the most depressing headlining show in Fuji Rock history
Over the past two nights, the Foo Fighters and Muse played big, raucous shows aimed at getting the thousands in Naeba pumping fists in the air and generally losing it. On Sunday, Noel Gallagher spent 90 minutes pining for the past, occasionally backed by childhood polaroids and, at one point, an amusement park ride.
This was Noel practically lusting after better, uncomplicated times in front of thousands, which is a constant theme in his latest project (“Everybody’s On The Run,” “The Death Of You And Me,” “You Know We Can’t Go Back” c’mon look at that last one). Even the Oasis material he wheeled out veered sad, most clearly on acoustic-guitar-featuring number “Fade Away,” featuring the chorus “while we’re living/the dreams we have as children/fade away.” Whereas most big-font performances are all about ENERGY and SHOUTING, Noel Gallagher basically shared his melancholy with us, which was weirdly compelling. But it wasn’t a downer, because…
Noel Gallagher is the funniest person to ever headline Fuji Rock
Gallagher’s between set banter was more entertaining than many bands at Fuji Rock this year (including Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds). Highlights included: him shouting “Is that someone’s pet?” after a big bug flew in his face, ssssshing the crowd for being too excited after he finished a song and eventually telling them “calm the fuck down, it’s Sunday. I’m warning you;” a prolonged gag in response to a request Foo Fighters’ lead singer Dave Grohl made Friday for people to “say hi” to Noel Gallagher for him — “I have one question for you…who is Dave Grohl?;” Asking a fan if they “lived in the forest? Are you the yeti?”
The list goes on. Point is, he was really funny, and it was all delivered in good fun (the little smile that broke out on his face after he would say, for example, that an audience member “sounded like a monkey” revealed he wasn’t a total asshole). I would honestly pay to watch him just talk about anything for an hour, and interact with the crowd in front of him.
Noel Gallagher’s outro music was an Ekkehard Ehlers song
Of course it was the one sampling The Beatles, this is Noel Gallagher.
Music festivals are only about the present and the past, and Noel Gallagher was perfect for the latter
Saturday night, several thousand middle-aged-looking punters sat in lawn chairs and watched as Canadian artist deadmau5 played a set which had a bunch of younger fans geeked up. The older viewers did not look confused or disgusted, but rather stared at a man wearing a giant silver mouse helmet on his head and thought “….OK.”
I’m confident many of them were the same people standing up Sunday, mouthing the lyrics while draped in the Union Jack and gripping significant others tightly as Noel Gallagher started up “Champagne Supernova.”
Music festivals only concern themselves with what’s popping off now, or what has proven successful in the past. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds — about as close as you can come in 2015 to having Oasis play your festival (without having to settle for Beady Eye) — is about as good as an event can do regarding the latter, especially in Japan, and country that fell hard for Oasis and took far longer to get cynical about them than other corners of the globe. Even if High Flying Birds’ songs entered the mix, plenty of people were fine with that as long as “Whatever” got some time to shine. Memories will make you do that.
Besides, those seeking the prior just had to go a few steps over to the White Stage to see FKA Twigs. In 20 years, she’ll be headlining, and a bunch of bored teens will ditch their parents to go see a Vocaloid jazz-core ensemble.
“Don’t Look Back In Anger,” basically
Whatever so-so High Flying Birds material he played, whatever animals he compared members of the audience too, whatever issue he has with the past — the entire set was leading up to this, the stupidly obvious conclusion. To quote Noel himself, though, “Never be afraid of the obvious.”
So yeah, “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is an absolute gem, designed to get large fields of people swaying their hands back and forth in unison, with Noel letting the thousands in front of him sing (almost all of) the choruses. It was a powerful moment, and one that had people looking genuinely moved in the crowd, a singular instance of people just letting a hyper-famous song overwhelm them. I get why nobody would want to write about Noel Gallagher, but I also get why thousands would want to be part of this.
“Everybody’s On The Run”
“Lock All The Doors”
“In The Heat Of The Moment”
“The Death Of You And Me”
“You Know We Can’t Go Back”
“If I Had A Gun”
“Half A World Away”
“AKA…What A Life!”
“Don’t Look Back In Anger”
Photo: JulenPhoto Text: Patrick St. Michel
Posted on 2015.7.26 22:45