“What’s gonna happen here now,” says Noel Gallagher, stepping gafferly up to the microphone halfway through his set, exuding Mike Lynch energy, “is I’m gonna play you a couple more tunes you don’t give a s*** about, they’re for me. But if you stick around after that, woo, there’s gonna be a lot of very happy people in bucket hats…”
Could the gloves be coming off in the world’s most infamous sibling rivalry? After several years in the dramatic doldrums, reduced to a one-way caps-lock slanging match on Twitter, the latest season of Gallagher v Gallagher has picked up substantially. Cocky young battler Liam has become the surprise stadium-level success of the pair, by dint of playing a fair old whack of major Oasis hits in his solo sets (who knew?). Elder brother – and one-time guardian of Glastonbury from the scourge of hip-hop – Noel, meanwhile, continues his creative renaissance with the High Flying Birds, only kept from a Knebworth of his own by playing fair. His bursts of Oasis tunes have largely been songs he sang on record, packing sets with mid-paced acoustic led singalongs but lacking the punch of a “Supersonic” or “Rock’n’Roll Star”.
The High Flying Birds are (non-accidental Partridge) the band that latter-era Oasis could have been. Oasis’s Noughties decline, after all, was largely down to Noel farming out album track filler slots to his bandmates. Now fully back at the song-writing helm and with an exploratory psych-rock mindset, over twelve years he’s produced three increasingly impressive and imaginative albums of galactic glam, motoric rock and some of the most phenomenal scissor playing you’ll ever have seen on an international stage.
Percussionist Charlotte Marionneau’s famous clippers come out again during “She Taught Me How to Fly”, and she also adds a phone call solo to the stratospheric “It’s a Beautiful World”. No mere gimmicks, but oddities indicative of Gallagher’s willingness to follow friend and mentor Paul Weller into more exploratory sonic territories. “Fort Knox” is a hypnotic dance rock firestorm, “Black Star Dancing” a psychedelic groove worthy of Jungle. “Holy Mountain” sounds, brilliantly, like Wizzard covering Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” on penny whistle. The first half of the set, even if it is just for Noel, is easily the most exciting.
Not that the Oasis half isn’t heart-warming business. “You’ve made it,” Noel says as he launches into “Little By Little” and the field erupts. Keeping the brotherly feud above-the-belt he concedes the rock’n’roll ground to Liam and sticks to the acoustic singalongs and soaring anthems – “Wonderwall”, “Whatever”, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, “Half the World Away”.
“Let the dogging commence,” he quips ahead of “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, a crowd-pleaser to worry “Hey Jude”. It’s a smart, conciliatory move; all the best soap operas need a clash of character.