WEEKLY UPDATES (with some special editions in between)



November 16, 2011

NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - Beacon Theatre, NY, 15th November 2011

My long burning appeal to all things, ‘Oasis’ began almost two decades ago (God I’m getting old) following the release of their debut album, ‘Definitely Maybe’. It hasn’t really diminished since then. Guitarist and chief songwriter, Noel Gallagher was unarguably at the helm of Britain's biggest band (despite protestations from little brother, Liam, no doubt). Last month, Noel celebrated his solo album debuting at number one on the UK charts (no surprise there). If any one-upmanship was sought, his brother new band, ‘Beady Eye’ only accomplished number three upon the release of ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ earlier this year.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (from here onward to be referred to as NGHFB) released the self titled album just last week in the US. Of the album, Noel recently said:
"The only thing I was certain of with this album was that 'The Death of You and Me' be the first single. I just thought now wasn't the time for grandstanding. I thought it was time to be a little more cool and calm."

This is a good summation of the album as I have heard it. In my recent review I mentioned that Noel and his birds followed a pretty safe flight path ( and who could blame them if it’s a sound that works?

Gallagher switched between electric and acoustic guitar throughout the concert. His four piece backing band featuring Tim Smith on guitar, Russell Pritchard on bass, Jeremy Stacey on drums and Mike Rowe on keyboards are a talented bunch. I recall seeing the animated, Rowe on keys a good few years ago on the ‘Be Here Now’ tour. NGHFB's ninety odd minutes on stage included a seventeen song set and a three song encore. The set was identical on both nights at the Beacon Theatre. It was a set strewn with ‘Oasis’ tunes. In fact, nine of the twenty tracks performed were ‘Oasis’ tunes. I was led to believe that the band may play a few of the more obscure Oasis tracks, but not the case with anthems like ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Little by Little’ given an airing.

The ‘If I Had a Gun’ mix (I think by UNKLE) was the last song to play on the intro music (need to look it up…I enjoyed that cut) before Noel and his high flying birds entered stage right. Noel, now the front man, looked focused and in serious mood as he reached for his guitar and kicked off with, ‘(It's Good) To Be Free’, the B-side from ‘Oasis'’ 1994 single, ‘Whatever’. For my money, this is one of the bands strongest singles (and they had a few) which is something of a surprise given the lead track never featured on any of the 'Oasis' albums. Whether or not the opener was specifically chosen as a message that Noel feels good to be free of the shackles of Oasis can only be speculated. One thing is for sure, it is a nice opening with acoustic guitar and the sound in this old Theatre does both the song and vocals justice.

The entire Orchestra section was on their feet from the outset and most of the upper section soon followed suit. Another 'Oasis' song followed in the shape of ‘Mucky Fingers’ from 2005's, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’. A somewhat strange choice given the songs’ lesser popularity from the extensive 'Oasis' montage, but well delivered nonetheless. Keyboard player, Rowe in particular was going bananas on this track with a Hammond organ sound accompanying Noel’s shrills of “It's alright!”
Song number three and we get our first intro to NGHFB live with the opening track from their new album, ‘Everybody's on the Run’. This is a very close second favourite of mine from the album and the sound doesn’t disappoint at the Beacon. It’s a fantastic live version. Noel’s vocals are stronger than I anticpated and, Stacey on drums again features heavily. Gallagher hits the sweet spot with the well composed and exquisitely delivered lyrics that he is renowned for, “Hang in there love, you gotta hold on…everybody's on the run.” ‘Dream On’ was up next and this as a typical, Noel effort as far as I’m concerned…very much in the realm of, ‘She’s Electric’ from the ‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?’ era.

The timid to this point, Noel shook hands with a couple of seemingly familiar faces or perhaps Manchester City shirt wearing fans before addressing the crowd at large – “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen… it’s nice to see some of your own fans for a change”.

The next song comes in the form of ‘If I Had A Gun’ which is something of a ballad. Not quite a ‘Masterplan’ but this sultry effort is certainly a grower. The crashing drum in support is superb and this live version is markedly better than album version. At this point in proceedings, the leather bomber jacket is shed and Noel sports a white shirt for the duration.

The B-side to the bands first single, ‘The Death of You and Me’ follows in the shape of ‘The Good Rebel’. I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t heard this previously, but I liked it in this setting. Very catchy indeed. It's almost folky/country in some sense.

Noel, growing more and more at home in the setting partook in another crowd conversation with someone familiar "where’s your sister tonight? At work? She's a Social Worker? That's more important than seeing me?"

The first single from the album, ‘The Death of You and Me’ was up next. It’s a lazy, sleepy little tune in the same vein as, ‘The Importance of Being Idol’. I didn’t think I was mad about this song, yet I’ve been humming it all day. Again Noel’s vocals impressed as he visibly became more comfortable in this lead man role. We were then treated to a brand new song from the band’s new album set for release next year, ‘Freaky Teeth’. It's a high octane rock tune that is more in line with ‘Oasis’ of old. There’s an element in the song that sounds like the Batman theme tune. Like what I heard of this and plan to scour the net to get a better listen.

The ‘Oasis’ classic that is, ‘Wonderwall’ followed. In an acoustic format and in the, Ryan Adams style (if you’ve not heard the Ryan Adams version, give it a listen) this went down a storm. Now, ‘Wonderwall’ is far from my favourite ‘Oasis’ tune, but live and in this theatre, it sent shivers down my spine. It basically brought the house down. With a brief pause to accept the adulation of a baying audience, Noel morphed the end chords of 'Wonderwall' in to an acoustic version of ‘Supersonic’ from, ‘Definitely Maybe’. This is one of my all time favourite ‘Oasis’ tunes. To a man, everyone sang along.

The band got back to their own music with, '(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine' which is one of my least liked from's just a little hollow. The same can't be saud of, 'AKA... What a Life!' With drummer, Stacey going like the pistons of a steam train and, Noel delivering the vocals in fine fashion, this was a high point for me. Rowe on keyboards again played more than just a bit part to this house/dance sounding tune.
At this point, Noel introduces his new band. His American guitar player gets big hand and a fair bit of abuse from Noel.

The B side from Oasis' number one hit, 'Some Might Say', called, 'Talk Tonight' was up next. This is up there with, 'Whatever' in terms of the bands strongest single. It's a great little love song and Noel is in his element.
Immediately after, Noel apologises for forgetting to mention guitar players name, "Tim Smith from Atlanta, Georgia...wherever the fuck that is."
'Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks' quickly follows and then, 'AKA...Broken Arrow' which are among the most Oasis sounding of all current NGHFB tracks. There's then a brief wee altercation/discussion with someone in the front rows of the audience before Noel ends it by saying "anyway, these people have paid to see me play fuckin' music if you don't mind"

Another B side from, 'Whatever' is performed in the beautiful, 'Half The World Away' with it's wonderful lyrical content - "my body is young, but my mind is very o-o-old". This is well received by the at this point ecstatic audience in Beacon Theatre. '(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach' ends the set with psychedelic lighting. This one come across extremely well live (again far superior to the album version) and, Noel is now fully warmed up and clearly enjoying his stage.

A short break before the band returned and worked through an encore of 'Oasis' tracks, 'Little By Little', 'The Importance of Being Idle' and closer, 'Don't Look Back In Anger'. The last of which was performed in large parts by the crowd. This is anthemic and again, screams of the Oasis of Noel Gallager as opposed to the Oasis of Liam Gallager e.g. Live Forever, Slide Away. It's a fitting end to an enjoyable performance.

As frontmen, Liam was stoic and snarling, but has now matured and is less agrgresive with his audience in,'Beady Eye'. Noel, who has always been a little quieter and sensible, proved to be affable and somewhat playful with the NYC fans. He certainly appreciated the reception at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show in a fantastic venue. NGHFB have a decent repetoire, all be it limited at the moment. I was slightly perturbed by the high rotation of Oasis tracks and the fact that many of them were hits as opposed to lesser known B sides. It was great to reminisce from my point of view, but I would rather have heard some different mixes of NGHFB tracks or even covers of other bands. At the end of the day, NGHFB have sufficient talents and worthy enough material to pull in crowds worldwide and sell a lot of records. The album is slowly, but surely growing on me. The classic album that some might say it is, it is not for me, but the live performance is solid. Rating 7.5/10

(It's Good) To Be Free
Mucky Fingers
Everybody's on the Run
Dream On
If I Had a Gun...
The Good Rebel
The Death of You and Me
Freaky Teeth
(I Wanna Live in a Dream n My) Record Machine
AKA...What A Life!
Talk Tonight
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
AKA...Broken Arrow
Half The World Away
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach

Little By Little
The Importance of Being Idle
Don't Look Back In Anger

Credits to Mrs ScoAustin for the photography.

November 3, 2011

THE BLACK ANGELS - Music Hall of WIlliamsburg, BK, 29th October 2011

As a caveat, this review might be somewhat clouded as I opted to ‘go on the Gin’ for the evening. This is something of a rarity in modern times having become well versed on the outcome and trauma that follows the day after. I think I pretty much captured the setlist, but there may be a couple of gaps.

If you are familiar with this blog, you will be well aware that I am a huge fan of these Austinites, 'The Black Angels'. They were fundamental in my inspiration to begin writing this blog in the first place. Having seen them play SXSW twice in two nights back in March, I have since been addicted to playing their music in my ears on an almost daily basis. Subsequently, I have seen them several times since SXSW this year. Living in New York certainly has its benefits in terms of seeing good live music frequently.

On this occasion, I was accompanied by two of my hometown friends, Kevin and, Dave who are largely unfamiliar with the band and the bands music. It can sometimes be tricky seeing a band you have not listened to at any great length and I think this was the case for both of my guests at this gig. Another factor to their discontent was that, ‘The Black Angels’ tend to play loud…very loud (which I love), but I admit that it can diminish the vocals a little and result in a blurb of noise to untrained ears…perhaps it’s just as much a sign of auld age (sorry Dave). One criticism that I do accept is that the band doesn’t really interact with the audience at any point. Generally, I am in the school of thought that the band should play and sing their music as opposed to rant and rave about inane subjects that they feel obliged to cast their opinion on. That said front men such as, Dave Grohl and, Jack White effectively engage with their audiences and it doesn’t take anything away from the music.

Anyway, on to the gig itself for which I will review the highlights as opposed to the entire set (which I have done death in previous reviews).

The band appeared to the smoky and bass driven sound of, ‘Haunting At 1300 McKinley’. The tune from current album, ‘Phosphene Dream’ is a fine choice as the opening song. It sets the tone pretty well for the gig that is to follow. ‘The Sniper’ next. It’s certainly one of my favourite songs from the band. It’s bluesy as hell…just the way I like. The guitar riff flowing throughout is catchy and the vocals from, Maas fit like a glove. ‘Better Off Alone’ starts with the distinctive front man, dawning his usual flat cap and beard, announcing “I feel so low”. This song needs two drummers when performed live as Maas hits his peak.

By the time the band reached close to midpoint of the show, the ‘Angels’ were on fire. ‘Black Grease’ is as bluesy and dirty as one can get. Bass player, Christian Bland is in his element on songs such as these. Meanwhile, Maas is almost caressing his mic with his lifts as he launches the “KILL, KILL, KILL” lyrics. ‘River Of Blood’ that followed was intense and rocking. ‘The Black Angels’ often put me in mind of, ‘The Doors’. None more so than on this track.

I previously listed, ‘The Sniper’ as a firm favourite, nothing beats, ‘Young Men Dead’ for me. This is an epic, ‘Black Angels’ tune. Crashing drums, filthy bass, wonderful lyrics and well addressed vocals. It’s sublime. The screen behind the band caught my attention on this track with a scantily clad (perhaps naked) young woman appearing in the background. This is dark stuff and I like it. Maybe the gin was taking its toll by this point, but by the time the band got to, ‘You On The Run’, I was absorbed by the backing screen. This was freaky stuff. Maybe a reference to the time of year, but it was horror movie scene in the background…something not far from, ‘The Shining’.  The song itself with a monotone and consistent riff behind it was well received by a captured audience.

The ‘Angels’ finished off their loud and proud show with, ‘Bloodhounds On My Trail’, ‘Melanie's Melody’ (performed solo by, Maas) and ‘True Believers’. We left with our ears ringing and my heart was certainly content as it always is when listening to and seeing this band perform. Over the past nine months, they have captured me like no other. Their sound simply ticks all the boxes for me and I literally can’t wait until the next time they visit the Big Apple. It can’t come soon enough. The Elgin boys will probably object, but this is following the high rating trend for, ‘The Black Angels’. Rating: 9/10

As an end note: To wrap up the evening, we continued our drinking binge by closing out a Brooklyn bar in the wee, small hours. We stumbled out on to the street and were unsuccessful in our plight to hail a cab, so we trudged on to the nearest Subway station. En route, I spotted an, Alex Maas lookalike and blurted out, “You’re Black Angles”. Although I don’t remember the full conversation, I was delighted when he stopped to chat. I do recall that he was very humble following my drunken articulation of undying love for him and his band’s music since seeing them at SXSW. He was most grateful and said that they were scheduled to play in both Glasgow and Edinburgh next year. Scottish brethren, I will keep you in the loop.

Set List:

Haunting At 1300 McKinley
The Sniper
Better Off Alone
Yellow Elevator
Black Grease
River of Blood
Bad Vibrations
Young Men Dead
Entrance Song
You On The Run
Phosphene Dream
Bloodhounds On My Trail
Melanie's Melody - Solo Maas
True Believers

I have a feeling they also played, ‘The Prodigal Sun’ and ‘Science Killer’, but in my Tanqueray induced state, I can’t be sure.