Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at 3Arena, Dublin, on Thursday 10th May 2018
Charlotte Marionneau is, Noel Gallagher explains, “the product of a genetic experiment that went right.” The French singer famously turned up on a recent Jools Holland appearance by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds where she played the scissors (don’t ask, just watch), provoking ridicule, applause, incredulity or indifference from whichever realm of discernment you found yourself. In any event, she has become a supplement to the band and – visuals aside – her enigmatic stage presence is the most interesting thing about tonight’s end-of-tour 3Arena performance.
The ‘Stranded on the Earth World Tour’ hinges around Gallagher’s 2017 album ‘Who Built the Moon?’ Tonight, the band’s third record tussles for dominance with the singer’s earlier Oasis material, and it does not fare well against that Noel-centric selection. Things begin with a rumble; escalating guitar noise that builds the mood until the domed stage lights suddenly flash on full-beam and the silhouetted figure of Chris Sharrock twirls a drumstick in front of one of three large screens. Kaleidoscopic visuals take hold as Fort Knox kicks off, eclipsing even the dominating vocal from backing singer, YSEÉ.
Things move from sluggish to merely serviceable as a horn section emerges, and Marionneau plays tin whistle on Holy Mountain – Status Quo meets Ricky Martin – then speaks into a telephone on It’s A Beautiful World. Despite its peacock strut, In The Heat Of The Moment is devoid of passion – it’s simply a workmanlike set for almost the entire first half, albeit with lovely colourful imagery and classic rock lasers. During Ballad Of The Mighty I, the visual screens either side of the stage have this thick, undulating laser beam effect snaking across Noel’s body that looks like one of the streams from the Ghostbusters’ proton packs. Slimer was great, wasn’t he? This, and places like it, is where the mind drifts to – anywhere but here, now.
Maybe the staidness onstage is simply boredom born from the inability to deviate from a setlist that’s synced to the elaborate backdrop and lightshow, night after night. It’s only nine songs in, when Noel speaks to the crowd for the first time, that things spark into life a bit more. “Thank you very much, good evening Dublin.” The long wait for acknowledgement elicits the expected response and he banters with those down front holding banners and wearing Oasis shirts; autograph hunter, birthday girl, so on, so forth. “So anyway…we shall go back.” While few acquiesce to Dream On’s “Shout it out for me” refrain just one song previous, with Little By Little the upswing in enthusiasm is marked.
JACKPOT flashes up on the slot machine visuals as The Importance of Being Idle closes out, and of course it’s a jackpot: it’s an Oasis tune. Things get a bit livelier and Gallagher a bit looser from here on in. The band leaves him alone with the pianist for Dead In The Water, dedicated to the guy in the studio “who pressed record when I was fucking about…turns out I wasn’t fucking about.” The audience back him up, and likewise on Half The World Away and Wonderwall; spikes in the setlist where the crowd seem that bit more invested in what’s going on.
An early-Pink Floyd aping, liquid light show backdrop effect tries to promote a psychedelic mood through Be Careful What You Wish For, but this is by-numbers baggy coloured with YSEÉ’s backing vocals and the trio on brass. By the time we’ve gone through the encore and into The Right Stuff – filler with a lead vocal from YSEÉ – and Go Let It Out, we’ve regressed to turgid, lifeless efficiency. A subdued version of Don’t Look Back In Anger pulls back a victory – Sharrock on tambourine, Noel on acoustic, the minimalism of the band’s embellishment and the crowd in full voice.
“We’ve come to the part of the show that I like to call ‘The End’,” Noel eventually tells us. The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love keeps the good vibes flowing, large green, white and gold balloons descend from the rafters, the horns punch out the refrain and the audience punch the balloons towards the band – it was fun. Most of the gig wasn’t. Nice visuals though.