“I can see by the amount of polo shirts and bald heads that there are some Oasis fans in,” said Noel Gallagher, bowing to rub the top of his own perfectly-preserved hair, before delivering the punchline: “it’s good to know that this is the only thing that survived the ‘90s.”
Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, Edinburgh Castle ****
Jokes worthy of a half-decent stand-up, plus a singular combination of self-deprecation and knowingly overbearing arrogance, have been a part of Gallagher’s stagecraft since the decade in which Oasis emerged and his (or his brother Liam’s) hairstyles became must-have for working class lads from Ipswich to Inverness. Yet joking about age reveals something more about where Gallagher is, eight years and three albums into his solo career.
The all-seated surroundings of Edinburgh Castle on a fresh July evening are far more refined than the heaving stadium moshpits Oasis used to create, and Gallagher’s music is similarly laid-back. Much of his sound these days is focused on depth of musicianship, rather than the punkish simplicity of Oasis, and his large band includes pianists, a trumpeter and two female backing singers whose voices balance his.
The Oasis songs he plays reflect this, among them rich, measured new arrangements of Whatever, Half the World Away and Wonderwall, as well as more mid-paced takes on the lesser-known Little By Little and Go Let It Out, which shine amid his set.
His solo material – the glam edge of Holy Mountain and She Taught Me How to Fly aside – is as thoughtful as these earlier classics, yet everything played fits perfectly amid the repertoire of a 51-year-old who has sung convincingly of nostalgia, regret and hard-earned contentment since his early twenties. While Liam is still out there chasing the youthful buzz of rock ‘n’ roll, the mellow but comfortable-in-his-skin Noel appears increasingly like the torchbearer of the Oasis sound in middle age.