Thursday, November 24, 2011

don't look back

Here's to childhood friends, especially those who remain dear and beloved, such as my oldest pal, who extended the invite (and late birthday present) to Noel Gallagher's show at the Orpheum Theatre. I'd been dragging my feet on this gig, due to my venue snobbery, but in actuality, I'd been scoping out available seats just the week before. I had no problem deciding when the offer came through.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, the Orpheum, November 19, 2011: For the last seven years, I've attempted to document all the gigs I've attended, but alas, 20-ish years of concerts will never be covered, at least in this form, and huge tracts of my music collection remain unremarked. In most cases, this is for the better, but as a fangirl, I wish I could crow about some of these past obsessions. Finally, I get to gush over Oasis or, more specifically, Noel Gallagher.

Noel Gallagher, the Orpheum, 11-19-11

Long story short: I loved Oasis, though on paper, they're nothing like the artists I typically follow. But dammit, they turned my world upside down for several years. I was swept up, I was obsessed, and my reaction was entirely visceral. Lyrics? Who cares! Plagiarism? Shrug. I don't really like rock music, but Oasis unapologetically rocked. And because they were conventionally popular, you could hear them randomly on the radio, see them on MTV, and most important, join in thunderous, all-encompassing sing-alongs, sometimes with people you knew.

Of course, Oasis has since broken up, supposedly for real. I'm not interested in declaring one half better than the other, and I couldn't isolate one element of the band as the standout. However, I always have a soft spot for whoever writes the words, which brings us to Noel Gallagher. He's hilarious, he's underrated as a singer -- and I empathize with him as the oldest sibling.

Like many U.K. acts, Noel brought an oversized set Stateside, with a huge lighted backdrop displaying images and the band name. They also brought a light show more suited for Wembley than for a more modest theater setting, but I welcomed the effort. As a further departure from the Oasis shows I saw many years ago, Noel actually talked, cracking jokes with specific audience members, as well as the crowd in general. The audience responded with football (not the U.S. kind) chants, impossible requests, and of course, declarations of love, mostly from dudes.

Unsurprisingly, Noel and the band hit most of the new record, including the epic "If I Had a Gun" and the surprisingly compelling "What a Life," even if I flashed back to 1996 for a few seconds. Noel also threw in an unreleased song from an album he said would be out in 18 months -- or maybe next year? Stay tuned.

Look, I admit it: I wanted to know which Oasis songs he'd pull out, and he didn't disappoint in the least. In fact, he paid back every committed fan's devotion, with a healthy sampling of album cuts, B-sides, and even a hit or two. It quickly became clear that Noel favored the tunes on which he did the vocals -- thus, no "Live Forever," for example. But if anyone has the right to sing "Wonderwall," he certainly does, and I'd have to dig deep into the archives to confirm whether I've heard Noel take on the acoustic "Supersonic" before. As a dorky fan, I also noticed that Noel dialed it down for the two aforementioned songs, while the typically acoustic "Talk Tonight" -- a treat under any circumstances! -- got the full electric band accompaniment. (I said I loved them!)

I could go on for a while with requests I don't expect Noel to ever perform ("Sunday Morning Call," pretty please?). Also, why no Be Here Now? I don't care what anyone says -- there are some great tunes on that record. Anyway, I'll also extend kudos for the inclusion of both "Whatever" B-sides, as well as tracks from the often ignored later-era Oasis.

If you've paid any attention to Oasis over the years, you can guess how they closed the show. "Don't Look Back in Anger" rang out across the aisles, accompanied by a room full of voices -- the way it should be heard.

Noel Gallagher, the Orpheum, 11-19-11

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