Thursday, May 28, 2015

Noel Gallagher concert review: Los Angeles

A version of my review originally ran at 

Noel Gallagher excels at putting hecklers in their place.  

When a guy in the Orpheum Theatre yelled, “Where’s Liam?,” the audience responded with loud boos.

So the former Oasis guitarist/singer/songwriter playfully asked, “Who’s Ian?” and then said, “I’m not your brother” (referring to the band once led by his sibling Liam).

Before haunting mid-tempo rocker “In the Heat of the Moment,” Gallagher turned sardonic: “The last time I was in this building was to see Marilyn Manson with my brother - quite an (expletive) evening, as you can imagine. This is my least favorite song off the new album.”

The same can’t be said for fans in his native England, where it narrowly missed topping the indie singles chart. Accompanying second album “Chasing Yesterday,” released earlier this year, debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and was a quick seller. More sonically adventurous, the collection strikes a compelling balance between majestic rock and psychedelia, with prodigious brass accents and guest guitar work by Johnny Marr.

Back in the mid-1990s, when Oasis had a prosperous run and battled Blur for the so-called Britpop crown, Noel Gallagher routinely made headlines abroad for his frequently provocative opinions. The same holds true decades later. Recent quotes about Ed Sheeran’s success, One Direction’s member exit and future possibility of an Oasis reunion have all made the music and tabloid press rounds.

Performing a sold out show in Los Angeles on May 20 with High Flying Birds, Gallagher delivered an invigorating 90-minute set that was split between his solo albums, plus a handful of Oasis’ hits and deep cuts. The Mancunian musician and his four-piece group took the stage to a mellow remix of “If I Had a Gun.”

They launched the 20-song set in thunderous fashion with “Do the Damage,” a sax-driven Stooges-meets-Sonics rave up originally earmarked for “Chasing Yesterday.” The dramatic “Everybody’s on the Run,” containing a swelling keyboard crescendo by the Birds’ secret weapon Mikey Rowe, was mesmerizing (he proved his mettle again on the rollicking “AKA…What a Life”).

Images of old family photos flashed on the backdrop for Oasis B-side “Fade Away.” Gallagher, playing acoustic guitar, recast the 1994 original’s raucousness into slower folk/rock territory and it worked well.

Lead guitarist Tim Smith unleashed some feedback and then everyone locked into a maelstrom of careening sounds during “Lock All the Doors” that packed quite a wallop. The same held true for the catchy, full on stomper “You Know We Can’t Go Back.”

A more subdued, reworked version of “Champaign Supernova” oddly prompted fans to clap along. Gallagher gently admonished them, “Don’t! My kids always do that” (he bantered with the crowd all evening). It was still electrifying as people hoisted beers in the air, several males sang along loudly, arm in arm, like they were at a soccer match and others took the chorus to heart by lighting up.

Elsewhere, the ominous and danceable stand out “Ballad of the Mighty I” saw Gallagher dominate with a rare guitar solo. Like other tracks that run past the five-minute mark on his albums, it never became tiresome live. Sinewy ‘70s-styled groove rocker “The Mexican” really gave the three-man horn section a chance to shine, as did a ruminative “The Masterplan.”

More excellent Oasis nuggets included the quick, blaring “Digsy’s Dinner” (Noel handled Liam’s sneering original vocal just fine) and soaring finale “Don’t Look Back in Anger."

Photos by Armando Brown

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