Noel Gallagher review – a Glastonbury singalong for the ages

Gallagher knows how to work the Pyramid stage, pleasing the crowd with a second half of Oasis superhits including a thunderous Wonderwall

Four songs into an underpowered Pyramid set, Noel Gallagher comes clean. “I’m going to play a few more tunes that you don’t give a shit about. They’re for me. But if you stick around, after that there’s going to be a lot of very happy people in bucket hats.”

The relief is audible. Earlier, some particularly hopeful festivalgoers had been overheard speculating about whether this set was in fact a smokescreen for Glastonbury’s white whale, a Pyramid stage Oasis reunion. That was never a going concern, of course – indeed, if anything, the positioning of this set felt like Noel sticking two fingers up to his brother, after Liam’s own massive shows earlier this summer. “You’re going to headline Knebworth, are you? Well how about I play the Pyramid stage directly before our mutual musical hero Paul McCartney instead? Beat that.”

So hopes of an Oasis reunion dashed, the fear was that Noel, always the more obstinate Gallagher, would add insult to injury by glowering through a set of half-known High Flying Birds tracks, and everyone else would have to entertain themselves before the real crowd-pleaser arrived later that evening. Those early signs weren’t promising; the lone highlight among a succession of dour mid-tempo tracks was Noel’s beloved backing singer Charlotte Marionneau playing the scissors.

But Noel also has a pretty decent understanding of how the Pyramid works. “The main stage isn’t your crowd, it’s a Glastonbury crowd,” he said in an interview ahead of this set. And a Glastonbury crowd at 7.30pm on a Saturday wants a massive pre-Macca singalong. So Noel obliges in the second half of his set with what is essentially an Oasis starter kit. Supported by his High Flying Birds regulars Gem Archer, Mike Rowe and Chris Sharrock, as well as some soulful backing singers and a smattering of horns, he launches into his top-tier material.

Little By Little is first up, immediately causing people to pile on to acquaintance’s shoulders. A fug of pyro smoke in various primary colours ascends above the crowd and stays there for the rest of the set. Then it’s The Importance of Being Idle, prompting a mass Rhys Ifans jig. Then Whatever, given a nice brassy arrangement, then Wonderwall – which Noel barely needs to sing a word to, such is the din emanating from in front of him. When he does seize the initiative back from the audience for that song’s final chorus, he underlines how well his voice has held up over the years, certainly when compared to other members of the Gallagher household.

Half the World Away and Stop Crying Your Heart Out – the latter dedicated to Liverpool fans he had already goaded with a massive Manchester City flag on his speaker stack – arrive in quick succession and Noel is even able to indulge in perhaps his only truly top tier High Flying Birds track, AKA … What a Life!, without too much audience dissent. But everyone on stage and off it, knows what they’re here for and there’s time for one final singalong, Don’t Look Back in Anger.

“Enjoy the big man when he comes on … he’s got a few tunes,” Noel says drolly before he departs. Macca’s not the only one.


Gwilym Mumford

The GuardianTramp

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