Live Report: Noel Gallagher – South Facing Festival

A sterling headline show from the ageless songwriter...

A nuanced rock affair, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds arrive to treat the South east London crowd to fresh goodies intertwined with select bites of Oasis nostalgia.

A warm Friday afternoon, there is a buzz, as chilled summery vibes blend in with feelings of expectation. Just back after playing a number of stateside shows, Noel Gallagher is enjoying a vibrant response to ‘Council Skies’, his latest studio adventure.

Having unveiled some of his most personal material to date, the songwriter continues to  expand his repertoire, cementing his reputation as a prolific musician and artist. Unlocking his own versatility, he explores new routes, demonstrates how fearless he can be, how unafraid he is of creative risk-taking. There has got to be something new on display, every time. 

Tonight everyone gets to hear crisp renditions of the new numbers. What becomes obvious, is the extent to which they already feel like integral parts of his live repertoire. With an audience that is open to, completely up for a big sing, opening tracks ‘Pretty Boy’ and the album title sound perfectly integrated, as tracks that are soon to become crowd pleasers. 

With a full band and backing vocalists, the sound that emerges is layered and voluminous with harmonies and experimentation that go hand in hand. Sharp and quick-witted, on relentless conversational form, Gallagher takes admirers through the setlist. “This next song is not ‘Supersonic’,” he jokes, it’s time for the Oasis-like ‘Open the Door, See What You Find’. Any resemblance, however, is just superficial, this is a mature and distinct contrast.  

Running a tight ship, it’s time to take stock and review album sales for the latest project. “Who has bought it?” he says, probingly, before he teases “Twenty-five?!”. It’s time to dip into older tracks such as the striking instant of ‘In the Heat of the Moment’, which is a highlight. He dedicates ‘AKA… What a Life!’ to “all Man City fans”, the energy is indefatigable and addictive, before the mood shifts with the acoustics of ‘Dead In the Water, a tender moment. 

Elsewhere in the set, moderately nostalgic minutes of ‘The Masterplan’ and ‘Half the World Away’ electrify onlookers, before the performance ends on a high with the anthemic ‘Little By Little’, a unifying juncture of activated mobile torch mode settings, intricate chorus chanting and emotion. It’s heart-warming and inclusive, with the crowd that represents a broad mix of age, identity and race.  

With time aside for an encore, the thirst for more Oasis intensifies, as he wraps up what’s been an exceptional show with the reflective statement of ‘Live Forever’ and the hymnal sensibility of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. 

Be here now, the album track easily sums up the performance as well as Noel Gallagher’s career. Sounding bigger and bolder than ever, his ongoing focus on the present, what’s here and now, only serves to increase respect levels, together with the occasional look back in time, the songsmith remains on a bright path, a path of reinvention, one that promises even greater things to come. 

Pretty Boy 
Council Skies
Open the Door, See What You find
Easy Now
You Know We Can’t Go Back
We’re On Our Way Now
If I Had a Gun…
In the Heat of the Moment
AKA… What a Life!
Dead in the Water
Going Nowhere
The Importance of Being Idle
The Masterplan
Half the World Away
Little By Little

Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) – Bob Dylan cover
Live Forever
Don’t Look Back in Anger 

Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Liz Gander

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