Noel Gallagher took the first major step in his solo career last night with a stripped-down acoustic set at London's Royal Albert Hall. Playing as part of the annual Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, a series of benefit shows started 10 years ago by the Who's Roger Daltrey, Gallagher — playing his first solo show since quitting Oasis with "great relief" in August 2009 — was expected to use the gig to test out songs from his forthcoming solo album. Instead, he unearthed a host of Oasis rarities and asked fans to be patient for the new tracks.
Joined by former Oasis lead guitarist Gem Archer and touring keyboardist Jay Darlington (both said to be part of brother Liam's new band) and percussionist Terry Kirkbride, the elder Gallagher kicked off the night with "(It's Good) To Be Free," "Talk Tonight" and "Fade Away," a trio of Oasis B sides from the mid-1990s that could easily have ended up on any of their acclaimed records from the period.
Gallagher was in high spirits, bantering with the crowd throughout the night and suggesting, "If you want to commit a burglary in Crouch End, tonight would be the night to do it," prior to introducing the Crouch End Choir. The chorus was outmatched on their first song, "Cast No Shadow," by the Oasis faithful who bellowed out the lyrics to the classic cut from What's the Story Morning Glory?
"Half the World Away," another early B side followed, before Wired Strings, an eight-piece all-female orchestra, took their seats behind the band. They proved a brilliant complement to the acoustic arrangement on "Don't Go Away," a cut from Be Here Now. "I don't know if you've noticed, but this is exactly the same set I played two years ago," Gallagher announced, referring to his 2007 appearance at the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit that was later released as the live album The Dreams We Have As Children.
Although he did stray from his previous set, he didn't answer the calls for new material saying, "I don't play new songs for charity." After solid takes of "The Importance of Being Idle" from 2006's Don't Believe the Truth and "Listen Up," Gallagher ended the repeated requests for new tunes by telling the audience, "Although the new stuff is brilliant, now is not the time or place." Instead he treated them to a modified version of "Wonderwall" — slightly geared down for his voice — and "Slide Away," which featured a searing solo by Archer. In between the two classics he brought out "Rocking Chair," a rarely played B side from the WTSMG? days.
Gallagher closed the set with "Whatever," a standalone single released after the band's debut album Definitely Maybe, and Wired Strings' contributions proved as strong as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who played strings on the original. As the crowd sang the familiar chorus, "Whatever you do/whatever you say/yeah, I know it's all right," the band departed the stage, leaving Wired Strings to finish the song and soak up the applause. The faithful continued singing until Noel and Co. reappeared for an encore that began with "The Masterplan." Gallagher then returned to the first two Oasis albums for "Married With Children" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" as the lights went up the Hall.
Gallagher plays again tonight at the Royal Albert Hall and Stone Roses bassist Gary "Mani" Mounfield is rumored to appear.
1. "(It's Good) To Be Free"
2. "Talk Tonight"
3. "Fade Away"
4. "Cast No Shadow"
5. "Half the World Away"
6. "Don't Go Away"
7. "The Importance of Being Idle"
8. "Listen Up"
9. "Sad Song"
11. "Rocking Chair"
12. "Slide Away"
13. "Digsy's Diner"
15. "The Masterplan"
16. "Married with Children"
17. "Don't Look Back in Anger"
• Q&A: Liam Gallagher on Discovering the Beatles and the Death of the Rock Star
• Noel Gallagher: "You Have To See Us in a League With the Rolling Stones"
• Noel Gallagher Quits Oasis With "Great Relief"
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