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Concert Reviews:
Noel Gallagher looks back, with pleasure in Royal Oak

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2012

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ROYAL OAK -- Noel Gallagher may not be looking back in anger, as he sang at the end of his concert Saturday night, March 31, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

But he doesn't mind looking back.

The former Oasis guitarist and chief songwriter, who left the group in 2009 and now fronts a solo band, the High Flying Bird, bookended the 20-song, 95-minute show with all he cared to say about his old band -- opening with the telling "(It's Good) to Be Free" and ending with the 1996 hit "Don't Look Back in Anger." But Gallagher also made it clear that he's neither abandoning nor denying his musical past, lacing nine Oasis tunes into the set without great fanfare, at one point simply acknowledging that "this is another song I wrote."

And what Oasis songs they were. With the exception of "Don't Look Back in Anger" and a trio rendition of "Supersonic," Gallagher eschewed the big hits (no "Wonderwall" here) in favor of B-sides such as "Talk Tonight" and "Half the World Away," the one-off single "Whatever" and deep album cuts like "Mucky Fingers," "Little By Little" and "The Importance of Being Idle" -- much to the delight of a sold-out crowd loaded with euphoric Oasis aficionados.

And without having to compete with some of the biggest pop and rock hits of the 90s, the material from the "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds" album held up well in comparison. Here again a visibly touched Gallagher had the crowd behind him, clearly familiar with the new songs -- even the deluxe edition track "The Good Rebel" -- as he and his four Birds soared into a few different stylistic areas, including the clubby four-on-the-floor stomp of "AKA...What a Life!," which took on a bit more rock 'n' roll crunch than its recorded counterpart. "(Stranded On) the Wrong Beach" and "(I Wanna Live a Dream in My) Record Machine)" sounded like vintage Oasis (the latter was demoed for the band at one point), while "Everybody's on the Run" paid homage to one of Gallagher's key influences, the Stone Roses. "Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks" was a bouncy pop delight and "AKA...Broken Arrow," which Gallagher said was "for all the ladies in the house," grooved with buoyant energy.

Gallagher and company also introduced a brand new song, "Freaky Teeth," a fast and heavy rocker driven by an organ riff.

If the show lacked anything it was the charisma of a natural front man. Gallagher pointedly, and admittedly, isn't that, and on Saturday he wasn't trying to be anything but a guy with a guitar leading a band through his songs. Fortunately both of those were potent enough to carry night, leaving anyone at the Royal Oak happy to be looking back but also looking forward to what he comes up with next.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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