Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds/Graham Coxon, Bournemouth International Centre
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Wednesday 05 September 2012
The last shots of the great Britpop war between Blur and Oasis fell silent long ago. Blur guitarist Graham Coxon's horrified attitude to the sorry business was shown by his grimace at his band's Hyde Park gig last month as they played "Country House", the 1994 hit single which won a pyrrhic chart victory against their northern rivals.
It was only Blur's singer Damon Albarn, anyway, who inspired virulent hate from the Oasis camp. Though it would once have been unimaginable, no hatchets are buried by Coxon's presence as support act on ex-Oasis leader Noel Gallagher's new tour. It's more a continuation of Gallagher's career-long promotion of musicians more challenging than he lets himself be. It's also a pairing of two middle-aged guitarists from once mighty bands. Neither are natural front-men; Coxon was Albarn's slouching right-hand man in Blur, Gallagher the watchful quiet man, letting brother Liam preen across Oasis's stage. But both seem happy, now they're out on their own.
There are no certainly no northern hit squads out gunning for Coxon among the crowd in this genteel Hampshire resort. They respectfully cheer his mix of fuzzed-up motorik drones, frail-voiced Syd Barret psychedelia and artfully warped 1960s Who-style pop. When "Ooh Yeh Yeh" grinds to a heavy, slow-motion halt, as if the music is gaining gravity with every note, then Coxon takes his modest leave.
Gallagher opens with an Oasis track, "(It's Good) To Be Free", which sounds like a song of liberation from his old band. He's brought a choir and brass section with him, slowly muscling up his initially low-key, reluctant solo career. Although he was Oasis's creative heart, he still comes across like a sideman – the Johnny Marr as much as Morrissey of his old band.
"If I Had A Gun..." has a pleasantly inevitable chord-sequence much like an Oasis hit, but only "The Death of You and Me" on his solo debut, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, really measures up to their best. Its rebelliously romantic lovers on the run, and blasts of wonky, Kinks-style old English trad-jazz brass, make for a more world-weary anthem, by an older, wiser writer.
A few plastic pint glasses arc across the crowd with Olympic force, but these are a civil and polite branch of Oasis's old army. They give an encouraging cheer to a new song, "Frequency", which combines Animals-recalling hard-nosed northern R'*'B and a driving, psychedelic version of the Batman theme. And it is the wistful Oasis B-side "Half A World Away" and its solo thematic sequel, "AKA...What a Life!", which hit home harder than an acoustic take on the band's early hit "Supersonic".
You only have to listen to the four-square thud of the High Flying Birds' boiler-suited drummer to know Gallagher hasn't escaped or improved on Oasis, who by the end inspired as much derision as adoration. But there are still signs of life, as he quietly carries on.
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