Live on stage: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

As Noel Gallagher finished his surprisingly strong 90-minute set at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday, one oafish man began to boo loudly as the house lights went up.

“What the fuck are you booing for?” an upset attendee said to the man. (OK, it was me.)

“I want him to sing ‘Wonderwall’! ” he shouted before resuming.

And that, in a nutshell, will be the Sisyphean quest that Noel (and his brother Liam) must undertake in the hopes of ever standing apart from what they did together as Oasis.

Noel Gallagher built his reputation as the (somewhat) more stable of the battling brothers, writing and producing most of Oasis’ biggest hits. While Liam was the voice, Noel was the brains of the outfit, which made his commercial prospects minus his brother an iffy proposition. 

But Noel’s eponymous album was a pleasant surprise, his voice much stronger than anyone could have imagined over a selection of sprightly tunes imbued with enough Oasis DNA to satisfy the die-hards.

In concert at the intimate Warner, Noel was on top of his game, charging hard through album standouts like “Everybody’s on the Run” and “Dream On,” although he pointedly opened the set with Oasis songs “(It’s Good) To Be Free” and “Mucky Fingers,” a personal favorite of mine.

While Liam’s Beady Eye outfit steadfastly refused to play any Oasis tunes, Noel plucked a couple of cherries from his former life, but to his credit, didn’t take on the big boys, preferring for the most part to stick to non-blockbusters like “Talk Tonight” and “Little by Little.”

In between changing his guitars – seriously, Gallagher must have switched out axes after every song – he displayed some of the ol’ Gallagher pugnacious charm, getting a kick out of several audience members, one of whom was begging for a guitar pick. “D’ya know how much these cost,” he asked. “Nothing!” He also apologized to an 8-year-old in the audience for his cursing, although he followed that up with a well-timed f-bomb that drew laughs from the audience.

In many ways, Noel was preaching to the choir – the largely-male, 30-40 ish audience were clear Oasis devotees, and had appeared to memorize quite a bit of the High Flying Birds work as well. Will Noel be able to expand outside the insular Oasis audience in the future? It seems difficult, especially when you can connect nearly all of his new work to something in the past. But you’ve got to give him credit for giving him a shot.

I imagine, however, that my boorish buddy from the show will eventually get his wish and hear “Wonderwall” in the next few years during the inevitable Oasis reunion tour.

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~ by Elliott on March 29, 2012.

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