While Manic Street Preachers headlined the Common Stage on the first evening of Victorious Festival in Southsea, the spotlight on Sunday was on Noel Gallagher’s much anticipated High Flying Birds. Giada Nizzoli was there.
Now, if you were there for other bands in general or if you happened to find yourself by the Common Stage simply because you like ‘Wonderwall’, I’m sure you enjoyed Noel’s performance. On the other hand, if you are a hardcore Oasis fan who’s ever bunked off college early, jumped on a train for two hours and raced around Milan just to take a picture with Noel whilst he was at the local radio station (erm, of course that was not me), you might have had some bittersweet feelings as you were singing along to his timeless music: 28th August this year was the seventh anniversary of the end of Oasis.
The notorious Gallagher brothers defined the ’90s with their catchy songs, now a symbol of a whole generation, their bitter rivalry with Blur, the other focal point of Britpop at the time, and, unfortunately, with their frequent arguments and fights.
After Noel’s brief hiatus in 1994, Liam’s famous abandonment of his brother on stage and the shockingly eccentric variety of insults that the Gallaghers conjured up and exchange, it became clear that Oasis had an expiry date.
Following a horrible argument, heightened by Liam brandishing Noel’s guitar like an axe and, apparently, throwing plums at him (I guess we’ll just have to take Noel’s word that this happened), the older brother left the band just before a gig in Paris, sadly cancelling the show.
Exactly seven years later, I found myself squeezed among thousands of people to see Noel Gallagher headlining Victorious Festival, still without Liam.
He was on at 9.45 on the biggest stage and magnified by three huge screens, his show introduced by a DJ set that included ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’, Liam’s recorded voice reverberating through the massive speakers. It’s hard to describe how exhilarating the build-up to his performance was, but I will mention that I had never seen so many people wearing Oasis t-shirts – but not those of Noel’s new High Flying Birds outfit.
Of course as soon as the lights dimmed, the audience burst into screams and applause for their favourite Mancunian as he came on stage and, as usual, started singing with no proper introduction. I’m pretty sure he knows that his music is so big that people, me included, will still go and see him even if he doesn’t try his best to verbally entertain the audience between songs.
While I still enjoyed his performance, I couldn’t help but think about the ill-famed date and the set-list. Noel opened the gig just as his first solo record does with ‘Everybody’s on the Run’. Other High Flying Birds songs followed, but halfway through the show his curse, already foreshadowed by all those t-shirts, became clear. Even seven years after the split of Oasis, Noel still feels obliged to sing numbers by the old band just to sate the audience.
No matter how many High Flying Birds records and singles they bought, most of his fans would be disappointed if Noel performed a whole gig without some Oasis tracks. In this case, it was four songs.
Everyone cheered as soon as they recognised the first notes of ‘Champagne Supernova’ (originally sung by Liam when released twenty years ago) and the most powerful note was definitely the last. The second half of the show comprised mainly Oasis songs, and what could have been a better choice than ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ to end a virtuoso performance?
And yet, at the same time, I couldn’t help but ask myself: isn’t it time Noel and Liam stop ‘looking back in anger? They should realise that long-awaited Oasis reunion – a ghost that continues to haunt both their careers.
Will the Common Stage one day see the two brothers together again or will Liam’s recorded voice followed by Noel in the flesh be the best we’ll ever get?
Maybe I’m just a hopeless nostalgic, but I admit that even as he was singing ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’, a part of me hoped they could.
And it still does.
Photography by James White.