In 2018, I’ve seen a grand total of two concerts—and both were Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Although this is partly me atoning for the fact I never saw Oasis, it’s also a reflection of the band’s formidable live show. Seven years and three albums into their career, Gallagher’s Birds are more of a roaring tour de force than ever. Here are five reasons to catch the group Friday night at the Cosmopolitan.
1. It’s as close as you’ll get to seeing Oasis these days. With apologies to Liam Gallagher, who’s currently on tour overseas, the High Flying Birds’ current live lineup is the best facsimile of Oasis around. The troupe features a pair of former members (guitarist Gem Archer and drummer Chris Sharrock), a one-time session pianist (Mike Rowe) and, of course, Noel, who wrote the bulk of the band’s best material. Translation: Expect all of Oasis’ cracking energy, with none of the drama.
2. The band is carving out its own sound. With the electronic-leaning newer material from 2017’s Who Built the Moon? newly added to its arsenal, the Birds are evolving into a rock band with overt soul and psychedelic influences, along with a penchant for zoned-out grooves. For example, the band has transformed Oasis chestnut “Go Let It Out” into a spaced-out shuffle reminiscent of Primal Scream’s Madchester classic Screamadelica.
3. The tour’s auxiliary musicians are top-notch. In addition to a three-piece horn section, the live setup includes several stellar auxiliary musicians. Magnetic vocalist YSÉE (aka Audrey Gbaguidi) adds melancholy wails to several songs, including the propulsive “Fort Knox,” while keyboardist Jessica Greenfield contributes vocal shading. And, believe it or not, the scissors(!) that multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Marionneau snips during the set actually make a sonic difference—as do her French vocals and other quirky textural nods.
4. Expect great stage banter. Gallagher’s press interviews are full of take-no-prisoners commentary and hilarious asides. His stage commentary tends to be more succinct, but no less amusing. At a late February show in Akron, Ohio, Gallagher gave his approval to two brothers who sang along to every song—and then gently ribbed them when they didn’t know the words to one—and chatted up another fan who apparently rushed the stage to meet him in Detroit. But after fans started calling out questions, Gallagher made it clear this wasn’t going to become a Q&A session: “I sing, you clap.”
5. It’s a balanced setlist—with a chance for Oasis sing-alongs. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds now have three records, so the live sequence skews toward that more recent material. Beloved Oasis hits “Wonderwall,” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” are concert staples, however, as is popular B-side “Half the World Away” and underrated later-period single “Little by Little.” Fans can also expect a fitting cover in the encore, so don’t leave early.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds March 9, 8 p.m., $33-$68. The Chelsea, 702-698-7000.