Concert Review! Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds @ Sony Centre, Toronto, Canada
Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds followed the beautiful warm weather into Toronto last evening to start their latest tour of North America. This time around it’s in support of their second album, Chasing Yesterday.
Noel, the former creative force behind (and sometimes in front of) Oasis, has been doing the solo-thing for a few years now. His High Flying Birds released their self-titled first album back in 2011 and it was really, really good. We saw his solo show at Wembley Arena in London, England and thought the same of the live show in 2012. It was heads and tails better than anything brother/ex-bandmate Liam had done to date with his band, Beady Eye. Now, a few years later and with a tough act to follow, Noel is back with his second solo effort.
When I heard the first two singles off the new album (In the Heat of the Moment & Ballad of the Mighty I) I wasn’t really impressed. In my opinion they didn’t compare to the number of great singles off his first one. I was relieved when I finally had a chance to hear Chasing Yesterday in its entirety. Most of the rest of the songs on it were far better and sounded really cool. There’s some neat horn parts, some catchy songs, some trippy songs, and some rockers too. It’s maybe not as good as their first album, but still very solid and well-written.
The Sony Centre is probably more posh than your average venue, I mean, it’s got escalators. There was no opening band. Noel hit the stage at 8:10. Before he came out, the house music was playing the remix Shoot a Hole into the Sun. Noel and the band received a loud reception from the super-enthusiastic crowd. The place was very nearly sold out, I did see a few empty seats but not many. The b-side Do the Damage kicked off the show.
The set was mainly comprised of Noel’s solo material. There were less Oasis songs this time around. The High Flying Birds had added a 2-piece horn section since last I’d seen them. I’m not a musical horn expert but I think I saw maybe a slide trombone and a trumpet? I did not see a saxophone; however, and noticed the sax parts in the songs were recorded samples. Noel introduced the horn duo as the “incidental extras”.
No matter if it was solo tunes or Oasis classics, the crowd was “mad fer it” from start to finish. They loved all the singles off Noel’s first solo disc, they really seemed to dig the new stuff too (including my personal fav The Dying of the Light), and they obviously went nuts for anything from the Oasis years. It was a ‘good’ audience but I can’t say it was one of the rare all-out ‘great’ die-hard mobs I’ve sometimes found myself a part of.
It was awesome to hear Noel do groovy, re-worked versions of Fade Away and Champagne Supernova. The crowd was in fine vocal form during Digsy’s Dinner (they seemed to like the song much more than the real Digsy does), If I Had a Gun…, The Masterplan, and Don’t Look Back in Anger. Noel sure can write those big sing-a-long choruses, can’t he?
Noel is the master of cool. He can’t seem to do any wrong onstage. The audience seems to always just love him. He is known for his great sound bites, so his interactions with the crowd are nearly always amusing and entertaining (unless it’s on Toronto Island, ouch). Last night he was turning down song requests in his usual humorous way, trading verbal jabs with some folks (probably Man Utd fans) while saying hello to others. He asked a young fan near the front how old he was. When the kid answered “10”, Noel’s deadpan response was “What the fuck are you doing here?”. He then told the kid’s parent(s) to go buy the kid a t-shirt since the “experience isn’t complete” until you do. Too funny. There were also comments on the big Mayweather/Pacquiao fight (Noel’s been in better ones) as well as Noel’s take on guys wearing flip-flops (“Fuck off!”).
It was a good night. Noel’s band is amazing, you know he’s not hiring just anybody to play with him. If I had one complaint about the show, I’d have to say I thought the visual component of it was somewhat lacking. They had a big white video screen behind the band but it was sometimes not showing anything, and when it did it was easily forgettable colour patterns or footage of Noel onstage. I’ve been spoiled by bands like TOOL and Primus who always go the extra mile to provide something cool to look at while the band is dutifully rocking out.
What stood out to me the most was just how crazy the people were to see Noel play. He’s popular enough to get a second show tonight at the Sony Centre. It should be noted that Noel told us that the 2nd show would be identical to the 1st and that if we weren’t going, we wouldn’t miss anything. He’s talented, and honest.
PHM Rating for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: 7.5/10
Setlist for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Sony Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – May 3, 2015
1 – Do the Damage
2 – (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
3 – Everybody’s on the Run
4 – Fade Away
5 – In the Heat of the Moment
6 – Lock All the Doors
7 – Riverman
8 – The Death of You and Me
9 – You Know We Can’t Go Back
10 – Champagne Supernova
11 – Ballad of the Mighty I
12 – Dream On
13 – The Dying of the Light
14 – The Mexican
15 – AKA…Broken Arrow
16 – Digsy’s Dinner
17 – If I Had a Gun…
18 – The Masterplan
19 – AKA…What a Life!
20 – Don’t Look Back in Anger