Noel Gallagher brings High Flying Birds, prickly temper, to Warner Theatre


Noel Gallagher played a career-spanning, 20 song set featuring new songs and old favorites from Oasis. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)
March 29, 2012

Sibling rivalries are by now as cliched as overdoses in rock-and-roll. Bands from the Kinks to the Kings of Leon all have had to leave the stage because of a brother behaving badly. The Gallagher boys’ spat that eventually took down Oasis was among the ugliest.

Noel, the gallant Gallagher brother, quit the wondrous, stadium-filling Manchester outfit in 2009 saying he couldn’t go “a day longer” working with the goofus Gallagher, Liam. Noel showed up at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday with his new combo, the High Flying Birds, and reminded fans, many sporting the jersey of their favorite Premier League team, that he was the musical force behind his old band’s anthem-rock greatness.

Noel opened his set with “(It’s Good) to Be Free,” an Oasis song he wrote that Liam used to sing in concert, as clear a message to his absent brother as the middle-finger statuette that sat atop Noel’s amp all night. Liam used to leave the stage when Noel took a turn singing during Oasis shows, just one sign of how big of a pain he was. So Noel is well prepared to not have him around during a performance. But this performance showed he’s not as practiced a frontman as his brother was. Gallagher spent much of the time kibitzing with folks up front and mocking their response, as a bad stand-up comic might.

He snapped a few times, telling the crowd to stop yelling old song titles at him — “I know the songs. I wrote all of them!” — and ordering an 8-year-old fan to go to the theater lobby to buy lots of licensed Noel Gallagher merchandise. But he lacked the meanness that occasionally made Liam’s rants entertaining.

He did get giggles during a brief monologue about taking in the local sights that day. “The White House? I’ve got a bigger house than that,” he said.

The High Flying Birds material was just as homage-heavy as Oasis’s once was. The drumbeat of the fantastic “The Good Rebel” was straight from the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride.” During “Freaky Teeth,” a song that Gallagher’s new band has not yet recorded, the stage was bathed in smoke and strobe lights, props so many of the Brit-pop acts of the early 1990s relied on. He dedicated “AKA . . . What a Life,” a tune off of the Birds’ debut CD, to Mario Balotelli, a footballer from Gallagher’s beloved Manchester City team.

“I got an orgy to go to at the White House,” Gallagher said before ending the show with “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” an Oasis ditty and rapturous rock singalong, whether performed in a stadium or a theater.

McKenna is a freelance writer.

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