Noel Gallagher, Union Chapel, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

"What possesses someone to do that?" asked Noel Gallagher after a heckler pleaded for "Wonderwall" early on. "It's not for another 25 minutes yet." The bushy-browed boy from Burnage and the brain of Oasis was in a generous mood for this intimate acoustic gig in aid of Mencap.

The 500-strong crowd, most of whom had obtained their tickets at a Mencap auction, were made up of the faithful. And the infamously bolshie Mancunian was in no mood to upset them. This was a sensational set of Oasis songs with none of the dross and only one letdown, a cover of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields". Kasabian, a "surprise" support act and Gallagher's current "favourite band", fared better with their Fab Four choice, "I'm So Tired".

Gallagher, sporting his trademark black leather jacket and a worryingly Russell Brand-like scarf, kicked off with the inauspicious B-side "It's Good To Be Free". But it was clear that his voice would suit this chamber-music venue. To confirm this, his second number, "Talk Tonight", was gorgeous. This was the perfect venue for Gallagher's more plaintive material, and he was ably backed up by Oasis's Gem Archer on keyboards and rhythm guitar, and the mysterious Terry on drums. They weren't missing their Molotov cocktail of a lead singer.

NME recently dubbed Gallagher "the wisest man in rock". And as time passes and the memories of him sharing bubbly with Tony Blair fade into the ether, the more this iconic Britpop figure grows on you. The formerly belligerent rocker, 40 next year, has cut out the drugs and the bile and has morphed into a witty elder statesman. Another heckler screamed for him to "go on", and Noel's response was suitably dry, "Yes, I am going on. That's what I'm actually doing."

And he went on to belt out a wonderful "Cast No Shadow" and a melancholy "Half the World Away". He then played "Wonderwall", the only time that Liam was missed. Noel's voice doesn't suit this song - he lacks his brother's distinctive drawl. But he made up for it with the equally anthemic "Whatever", which he claimed to play "in the style of Bob Dylan". It came across like Dylan's "I Want You" and had the audience gleefully chanting the lyrics.

But the highlight was "Slide Away". This Definitely Maybe track evokes an acute feeling of nostalgia for Oasis. It recalls a time when they seemed (and it's hard to fathom now) capable of emulating anyone. So, a thrilling night, and perhaps a solo future for Gallagher?

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