Live Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds with Mona at Warner Theater, Washington DC – 28th March 2012

By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 at 2:00 pm

Warner Theater in the heart of downtown DC – read: ghastly dead after normal working hours and on the weekends – usually puts on shows of a genteel nature. Christmas productions of the Nutcracker come to mind, for example; it started out as a vaudeville and silent film house. But every once in a while, their staff will open its doors to put on rock shows of a higher calibre: think David Byrne and Morrissey, two acts I’d seen there previously. Last Wednesday night, it played host to one half of the most contentious partnerships of Manchester, Noel Gallagher and his solo project called Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. While waiting around for the show to begin, I could hear assorted male English accents in the crowd. Clearly, Noel’s devoted from blighty had made the trip over for this tour…

While Reverend and the Makers supported Noel and his band on their recent jaunt around the UK, opening duties in America fell to TGTF 10 for 2011 poll winners Mona. I was super proud of them for bagging this slot and hoped this would be their ticket to fame here in the States, after having quite a bit of traction as an NME darling in Britain last year. Despite having a banner that clearly read “MONA” as their backdrop, security stopped me and asked who the opening band was. Umm…

‘Teenager’ early on in their set didn’t disappoint, and neither did ‘Lean into the Fall’, in which Nick Brown’s screams were received admirably by early arriving patrons. ‘Shooting the Moon’, with its emphatic “I am / I am / I am! / shooting the moon!” chorus and screeched verses, stirred punters. Similar to when I saw Two Door Cinema Club open for Phoenix at a sold-out Constitution Hall in May 2010, I pity the fools who were drinking outside and missed a great set from the Nashville-based rockers.

Compared to those I’ve seen of Jonsi and Cut Copy, Gallagher’s lighting backdrop was disappointing, featuring either simple coloured light displays with or animations of houses or memorably, the open mouth of an old man (who I guess doesn’t care for Noel Gallagher or his music). Epileptic strobe lighting filled in the gaps. But as you’ve probably already guessed, everyone who bought a ticket to this show was a living, breathing Oasis fanatic, so he could have showed up onstage with nothing but his guitar and the fans still would have considered the show a success and would have come. I think it’s important, though, to note that despite the bill, the show was not sold out. Either people weren’t willing to shell out the big bucks for a Warner Theatre show, or he just doesn’t have enough fans in this town. [Editor’s note: despite signing a contract stating that I would only use my photos of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds for editorial purposes (e.g., for TGTF) and not for commercial purposes (a moot point, since I photograph gigs using a point and shoot Panasonic Lumix), his management decided not to allow me to use any photos I took of Noel and his band Wednesday night. If you’re desperate for visuals, I suggest you Google “Noel Gallagher Warner Theater video” and you will find tonnes of ROIOs taken by fans on similar equipment.]

Another thing of note: though the Gallagher brothers have parted ways, it’s Noel who has made more of a departure from their old band’s sound. His debut solo album smacks more of introspective singer songwriting than of the stadium anthems he used to pen for his former band, which works only to a limited extent in a large venue such as this. So it’s not a surprise he starts his set with two guaranteed crowd pleasers, ‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’ and ‘Mucky Fingers’, before trying out ‘Everybody’s on the Run’. Make no question about it, everyone here’s already got his album and are singing along note for note, just like on the previous Oasis numbers. Stood there, you feel like you’re surrounded by a large gang, and you’re either part of it or not. I’m an Oasis fan – ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ was an important album in my childhood – but I realised quickly that I wasn’t anywhere near as big of a fan as the people that surrounded me. The encore, composed entirely of Oasis songs, proves that Noel knows what his fans are expecting when they come to see him play.

If you were wondering if the elder Gallagher still has that foul mouth, the answer is yes. Some may find his brand of humour endearing – and I’m guessing if you’re an average bloke, you are included in this group – but he’s kind of offensive when he talks down to the crowd. In general I don’t find my mates from Manchester anywhere near as crass; certainly they’ve never said to a child that he should look forward to all the cussing and swearing he will get to do when he’s older. Err… Or maybe they are censoring themselves around me? I’ve no idea. While I ‘get’ that him swearing about how dare his usual keyboardist go and get his wife pregnant and she had the nerve to have the baby during this leg of his tour is funny in a sarcastic way, call me a prude, but I think it’s a low and unnecessary blow.

Sarcastic barbs aside, there were some clear winning songs in the set. ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, one of few songs in the Oasis back catalogue that Noel sang lead on back in the day that he can claim as being the lead singer legitimately, closed out the encore. I’ve seen big productions where singers stop singing altogether to allow the audience to belt their hearts out, and here is one of those times where predictably, everyone in the venue is yelling towards the stage, “and so, Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late…” This is probably Noel’s everyday gigging life, as he comfortably stepped back from the mike to concentrate on his guitar. Narcissistic moment? Definitely. But it’s something that Noel can count on for years to come.

After the cut: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds set list.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Set List

(It’s Good) to Be Free (Oasis cover)
Mucky Fingers (Oasis cover)
Everybody’s on the Run
Dream On
If I Had a Gun…
The Good Rebel
The Death of You and Me
Freaky Teeth (unreleased new song)
Supersonic (Oasis cover)
(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine
AKA…What a Life…
Talk Tonight (Oasis cover)
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
AKA…Broken Arrow
Half the World Away (Oasis cover)
(Stranded on) The Wrong Beach
Whatever (Oasis cover)
Little by Little (Oasis cover)
The Importance of Being Idle (Oasis cover)
Don’t Look Back in Anger (Oasis cover)

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One Response

[…] of an Oasis fan as I was of the Beatles, I still prefer Oasis over Blur (sorry, Damon). And despite an unfortunate run-in I had with Noel’s security 3 years ago in DC that resulted from a misunderstanding by venue […]

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