As the lights go down, a picture of Prince appears on the screen before Let’s Go Crazy echoes around the Hydro. Following news of the pop legend’s untimely death hours earlier, it’s a poignant start to a night which serves up all kinds of emotions, with Noel Gallagher getting an even more rousing reception than usual when he appears on stage.
Of course, the Mancunian and Prince don’t have a lot in common; while the latter thrived on eccentricity, flamboyancy and reinvention, Gallagher has remained close to his roots throughout his career, never straying too far from what made him successful and never losing that wicked northern sense of humour. He’s about as understated as a frontman can get, looking more than comfortable in a stationary position centre of the stage while, aside from brief moments of humorous banter with the crowd, allowing his music to do the talking. What makes a Noel Gallagher gig special is its simplicity; you don’t need any frills or stage tricks when you’ve got a songbook that includes the likes of Champagne Supernova, The Ballad of the Mighty I and The Masterplan.
Back these anthems with a 13,000 strong crowd at full volume and you’ve got the Hydro turning into a mass pub singalong for the night. Gallagher has always had a special relationship with Glasgow (Oasis were discovered in the city’s infamous King Tut’s venue), and it’s easy to see why with the sheer euphoria in the arena. Judging by the queues at the bars beforehand, this may be somewhat fuelled by beer; those poor people pouring pints have got their work cut out for them tonight. Of course, as is Oasis tradition, it doesn’t take long until these are being flung around the room. Their fans may be older, but this is very much a Throwback Thursday for many people here tonight.
There’s certainly no messing around from the frontman either as, following a euphoric reception, Gallagher and his High Flying Birds launch into the emphatic rock of Everybody’s on the Run backed by the Crouch End Festival Chorus. He rattles through his most recent hits without pausing for breath; Lock All The Doors is a brutish piece of rock’n’roll, Riverman is a mellower, hypnotic affair which benefits from the addition of a sax solo while You Know We Can’t Go Back is a buoyant anthem dedicated to Oasis fans.
The crowd have to wait until about halfway through the set until they hear the classics but it’s most definitely worth it. ‘Feel free at any point to join in ‘, Gallagher says as the opening chords of Champagne Supernova ring out. There’s no need to ask though as the crowd threaten to drown out the band, proving that the song remains timeless. From this point onwards, the gig turns into a nostalgia fest as Gallagher dips in and out of his back catalogue, playing a setlist that would please any Oasis diehard with the likes of Sad Song, D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman, Half the World Away and Listen Up making unexpected appearances. As enjoyable as his solo material is, it has to be said that Gallagher has yet to match the magic of yesteryear.
If these great songs aren’t enough to pull on the heartstrings then you should see the encore. Walking back onto the stage, he chooses to honour the Purple One for a final time: ‘So, I was in a band once. And we had an album called Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants and one of those giants was Prince. So you’re going to help me pay tribute to the great man and help me do Live Forever.’ Stepping away from the mic, Gallagher strums his guitar and allows the crowd to sing the words to one of his greatest songs as a stately image of the pop legend appears on the screen once again. It’s a truly moving moment with the lyrics never sounding so poignant and relevant; it has to be one of the most powerful performances of the song in recent times. This is followed by an emotional Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger with the backing choir soaring over the epic choruses.
Say what you want about Noel Gallagher, he still has the ability to conquer any arena while making it look like the easiest thing in the world. You can’t just wave this off as a lad-rock booze-fest; it’s more than Fred Perry polo shirts and green parkas and Mod haircuts. These songs are just as relevant as they were twenty years ago; the fans from back then may be older but looking around, there’s definitely evidence of a new generation ready to claim them as their own.