Arts & Culture

Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Majestic Theatre

Bassist Russell Pritchard and Noel Gallagher perform with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at the Majestic Theater May 14, 2015.
Bassist Russell Pritchard and Noel Gallagher perform with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at the Majestic Theater May 14, 2015. Star-Telegram

There’s a particularly delicious irony seeing Noel Gallagher just two weeks removed from the release of Blur’s latest album.

Not only does it conjure fond memories of Britpop wars of old — a phrase which bears the weight of more years than I’d care to acknowledge — but it also vividly underlines this particular moment in the former Oasis member’s career.

After all, Gallagher’s contemporaries are, after more than a decade of playing coy, embracing the cycle of rock stardom: Grab attention, get huge, split up, then reunite to critical hosannas and (if you’ve timed it right) oceans of money. (There’s a reason rumors persistently swirl about an Oasis reunion, six years after the band split up.)

The 47-year-old Gallagher, however, wasn’t focused on the past: “I’m gonna play you some songs off my new album, because, frankly, that’s why I’m here,” he told the near-capacity crowd, on its feet and screaming throughout, at the Majestic Theatre Thursday.

And he did just that, punching out a proper, full-blooded rock show over 100 minutes.

As with most projects undertaken in the wake of a career-defining band, there’s the temptation to cut some slack, but Gallagher didn’t need any mercy there either.

Thursday’s performance — Gallagher’s first North Texas gig in almost three years — was a master class in rock star insouciance, raw talent backed up by a no-nonsense proficiency sorely lacking among the current vintage of rock bands.

Modern arena acts are plenty capable, but there’s no personality behind all the flash — Gallagher never lets you forget for a second there’s a real, live irascible human being at the center of all the sound and fury. (The young’uns could also take a cue from the less-is-more staging approach: a simple video screen with a mix of live video and projected clips, augmented by an occasionally dazzling array of lights.)

Backed by a cracking four-piece band (drummer Jeremy Stacey, keyboardist Mike Rowe, bassist Russell Pritchard and guitarist Tim Smith), occasionally augmented with a horn trio mixed so low as to be merely decorative, Gallagher’s High Flying Birds simply soared, pulling from 2011’s self-titled debut and this year’s Chasing Yesterday.

Gallagher often deferred to Smith and Rowe, who made for a dynamic duo, trading runs and providing plenty of instrumental spark.

Favoring a distinctly psychedelic brand of rock that’s as welcome now as it was in the mid-‘90s, Gallagher’s lean, mean songs managed a sense of headlong forward momentum. He spun from the set-opening Do the Damage to (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach to the genuinely thrilling Everybody’s on the Run before dropping the first of five Oasis songs on an audience that was primed for them.

His approach to the strategically placed slices of his back catalog was an intriguing one. Gallagher, who, along with his brother Liam, handled most of the songwriting duties in Oasis, clearly understands the sturdiness of what was wrought, but doesn’t treat them particularly gingerly.

Fade Away was appropriately crunchy, while his acoustic-led take on Champagne Supernova was the textbook definition of perfunctory.

It wasn’t until the encore, when he laced into The Masterplan, that there was a sense these old tunes were actually somewhat pleasurable for him to play.

Indeed, for the uninitiated, it might’ve seemed like the whole night was an imposition.

Gallagher, perhaps now and forever the music industry’s single best interview subject, had plenty of cheerfully spiky asides for the adoring crowd, most of which are unrepeatable here (sample: “This is our last song. I’m sorry — I have to go play for f—ing hippies in California.”

But, for all the bluster and seeming disinterest, the Manchester lad is getting a little softer in his old age — he does care, in his own way.

Late in the main set, he sang The Dying of the Light with the poignant opening lyric “I keep on running but I can't get to the mountain/Behind lie the years that I misspent.”

That sentiment — a tinge of regret, coupled with the acceptance of time’s passage — took root in the final song of the night: Don’t Look Back in Anger, a double-barreled blast of nostalgia, all the more moving for being the last thing the band played.

Noel Gallagher knows what brought him here, and while he may not be cashing in on past accomplishments, he’s not denying their impact either.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713

Twitter: @prestonjones

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