Noel Gallagher at Wembley Arena
Will the sophisticated sound of the latest album from Noel Gallagher, Who Built the Moon?, work live? Despite having had a preview at the Apple launch last year, that question has lingered in my mind in the hours leading up to the show. With his third solo record the celebrated songwriter stepped out of his comfort zone, a response to years of criticism from those who claimed he has been relying on the same sound and structure for way too many years. This experiment – executed by producer David Holmes – paid off with the press, who praised the change. Sales, though, didn’t match that enthusiasm. While the psychedelic pop touch to the newer songs is refreshing, the quality of the melodies – the elder of the Gallagher brothers’ trademark – suffered from it. Does he, however, pull it off live? Yes and no.
Fort Knox kicks off the concert; this epic, Kanye West-inspired near-instrumental – think of Fu**in’ in the Bushes, less rock, and performed for real – is a duet with singer Ysée (Audrey Gbaguidi), who tours with the band. Gallagher’s stage demeanor hasn’t followed the sonic developments. His static quality, which would normally help focus on each song – he actually made an icon of this potential weakness – is a double-edged weapon. Because the writing of the new tracks is not as solid – except for a few of them – it ends up making the set a little monotonous. Especially when he plays Be Careful What You Wish For, The Right Stuff and It’s a Beautiful World.
Noel Gallagher can, however, make the arena explode – whenever he wants. And he does so with Little by Little, AKA…What a Life!, Half the World Away and – of course – Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger. The absolute highlights come when the Mancunian musician picks up his acoustic guitar and sings two of his most profound songs; two world-class masterpieces: If I Had a Gun… and Dead in the Water. The latter, released as a live bonus track for Who Built the Moon?, is proof that Gallagher is still one of the finest songwriters around.
During the encore a surprise rendition of Go Let It Out – a single that up until now I’ve always associated with Oasis’ frontman Liam – and a cover of All You Need Is Love give an unexpected twist to the concert as whole. Noel Gallagher is facing a tough transition and if he nails the right balance between old and new, classic and experimental, the next album might even be his best yet.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit Noel Gallagher’s website here.
Watch the video for She Taught Me How to Fly here: