It was like old times for Noel Gallagher. A number one record in the charts, a packed arena, a forest of raised arms, thousands of voices bellowing along. There was even a fight near the front, the icing on the Madeleine. “Great: fighting!” said the ex-Oasis man, amused to see fisticuffs “down here” in London. “What are they fighting about anyway, who’s got the pinkest cardigan?”
Once there would have been fighting on stage too. But following Oasis’s 2009 split Gallagher no longer has to share the limelight with permanently angry younger brother Liam. The opening number at the O2 Arena, “Do the Damage”, seemed directed at his sibling adversary. “You could have had it all,” Gallagher sang, an irritating piano chord jabbing in the background like Liam’s finger in an argument — one from which the elder Gallagher has emerged the winner.
While Liam’s post-Oasis band Beady Eye lie in ruins, Noel’s solo career is burgeoning. His first album with his High Flying Birds backing band was uninspired but sold well. Now comes a much better follow-up, Chasing Yesterday, the fastest-selling album in the UK so far this year.
Its songs formed the core of his crisp, confident set, backed by the four-strong High Flying Birds, a brass trio and the Crouch End Choir. The driving rocker “In the Heat of the Moment” stood up well against the Oasis track that preceded it, “Fade Away”, another jab at Liam (“The dreams we have as children fade aw-aaaay”). “Riverman” was a subtler take than usual on the psychedelia that has always inspired him, complete with swirling horns and shimmering guitar solo.
Gallagher was in good form, singing heartily and executing a little spin and kick during “The Mexican”, an acrobatic display by his standards. Oasis songs punctuated the solo material, including a majestic “Champagne Supernova”, a very dated “Digsy’s Dinner” and a nostalgic “Don’t Look Back in Anger”.
He ended with “The Masterplan”, the choir harmonising behind him, the anthem’s lyrics chanted by the 20,000 people in front of him: “It’s up to us to make/ The best of all the things that come our way.” Oasis’s former leader has managed to follow his own advice.