Under the quintessential grey skies of Manchester, intermittent showers mingling with flashes of thunder and lightning set the backdrop for a musical return four years in the waiting. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds took to the stage in Wythenshawe Park, delivering both a nod to the past and a big helping of the present.
Noel kicked off his set with an array of solo tracks from his latest album Council Skies, opening with Pretty Boy, it’s magnetic and high tempo riff is a no brainer to get the crowd on his side. Followed by Council Skies, Open the Door, See What You Find, We’re Gonna Get There in the End, and Easy Now. His first words to the crowd are “No, this next one isn’t Supersonic,” acknowledging the weight of his history. A testament to the songwriter, it would be easy to throw in some Oasis classics early on but Noel’s deliberate decision to reserve these for later in the set speaks volumes about his artistic integrity. In an industry (and a family!) that often succumbs to nostalgia, Noel displays the courage to focus on the present moment and balance that with the demand for the past, gradually building a crescendo that culminated in the Oasis classics that everyone had been yearning for.
The Oasis crowds have always been referred to as football fans and you can see why, the frontman on stage is as big a football fan as any. Before launching into AKA What A Life, Noel dedicates it to Manchester City fans, in contrast to this, he dedicates Going Nowhere to Manchester United fans. The football culture of Manchester is in a playful spirit.
The instant recognition of Dead in the Water which has never had an official studio recording says everything you need to know about the magnitude of the songwriter. One of the most successful and prolific the UK has ever produced and doesn’t he know it. Within the setlist, there lies a collection of B-sides, each met with an overwhelming response from the audience. Not many artists can do that. Once we get into Oasis territory there is no going back, the crowd are fully committed to singing every word as loud as the can fathom, songs such as Live Forever and Little by Little all produce a wave of mobile phones and people on each others shoulders, the residents of Wythenshawe and further afield would have heard every word.
Noel, with his trademark candor, noted, “I’ve got faith in you Wythenshawe… you’ve got to sing it all the way through,” . The mere melody of Don’t Look Back in Anger rang out, and a unified choir of thousands swept through the park. The torch of these anthems had indeed passed from creator to devotees.
It’s fitting that the Manchester’s biggest songwriter hosts the first ever concert here. The organisers’ aspirations are evident as they envision this event as the pioneering step towards potential future live concerts at the illustrious Wythenshawe Park.
Prior to Noel’s headline slot we were gifted a variety of talented artists on stage – each with their unique flair and fervour. Having missed the up-and-coming Picture Parlour, we eagerly await another chance to witness their rise.
Billy Nomates was the first act we managed to catch. Fresh from a surge of unwarranted criticism and trolling post her Glastonbury act, her solo performance on stage was unnervingly captivating. A beacon of authenticity, self-produced and often on the receiving end of the admiration of her peers Billy Nomates is an artist who remains unyielding, something that gets Noel’s tick of approval as we are led to believe he “handpicked” todays support artists.
Then came Future Islands, a band we hold in the highest regard. Their lead, Samuel T. Herring, is nothing short of an onstage marvel. His presence, charisma, and connection with the audience are unparalleled, placing him among the elite frontmen of his generation. However, their set was abruptly cut short – just when we were settling into their groove. A sudden downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning signaled an unexpected end to their act due to safety concerns arising from a nearby electrical storm. Having known their history of supporting Noel, we hope for a reprise – a chance for the Baltimore band to finish what they started. And for many more to experience the allure of watching Samuel work his magic onstage.
The rain may have dampened the grounds but not the spirits. The crowd, brimming with enthusiasm, sang along to Oasis classics. A DJ, entrusted with an ostensibly straightforward job given the setting and occasion, managed to elevate the mood with some impeccably timed tracks.
Following this interlude, it was Primal Scream’s turn to trigger some time travel. Their familiarity doesn’t breed complacency. Despite having witnessed them thrice before, including their iconic Screamadelica performance at Glastonbury 2022, they never cease to surprise with their repertoire filled with timeless classics. Following Future Islands isn’t an easy feat, but Bobby Gillespie, with his decades of experience and undeniable charisma, effortlessly took center stage. His iconic claps and crowd interactions garner a response befitting a musical national treasure. Not the only one on show today that’s for sure.
You can catch Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds later this year including dates in London, Liverpool Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and more with tickets on sale now here.
Future Islands have a few remaining UK tour dates over the next week with tickets on sale now here.
Picture Parlour are on tour with The Last Dinner Party, tickets available here.