“Wonderwall,” the song that transports us back to our middle school days of puppy love and awkward first crushes every time that it comes on. Everyone has a connection to the song and its creators, Oasis, which was fronted by English rocker Noel Gallagher — but Gallagher’s repertoire consists of more than just middle school hits, and he has thoroughly proven that with the formation of his newest band, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
When Gallagher took the stage at the Merriam Theatre on Feb. 13 with this lusty rock group, he simultaneously gave us a taste of our beloved ’90s tunes and showed us what he’s been working on since. Playing alongside former Oasis members Gem Archer (guitar), Mike Rowe (piano) and Chris Sharrock (drums), in addition to bassist Russell Pritchard and several other guests, Gallagher confirmed that he is “flying high” indeed.
Some audience members were there because of the rumors that Oasis songs would be played, and some were genuinely interested in his newest musical endeavors — but everyone left the glitzy venue satisfied.
The elegant theatre dazzled with neatly plotted rows of seats, towering balcony seats that wrapped around an enticing stage and extravagant light fixtures that gave off an antiquated glow, all bolstering a deeply sophisticated feel. But instead of sporting fancy attire, fans rushed to the scene dressed in rock band shirts and Philadelphia Eagles jackets, while firmly grasping onto plastic cups of beer.
Us rockers were not the only ones who appeared incompatible with the location. Dressed in casual attire and backed by unhinged effects that seemed almost psychedelic, the band members gave a whole new meaning to “class.” While the elegant brass additions graciously agreed with the nature of the venue, the fast-paced visual effects scattered with images of neon-colored skeletons, butterflies and a mish-mosh of shapes that moved along to the music was a little out of place — but in the best way possible.
It was like witnessing an opera, a punk-rock show and tripping at the same time. In that moment, I felt like one of Gallagher’s high flying birds myself.
But Gallagher’s dreamy vocals brought us back to reality. Paired with mesmerizing bass, succinct piano playing and a killer drummer who could impressively catch his drum sticks after tossing them high into the air during songs, the group was also accompanied by a flawless brass ensemble that featured vibrant trombone and saxophone riffs.
Of course the crowd couldn’t help to scream “Go birds” or to spell out “E-A-G-L-E-S” in between every pause, but Gallagher made it clear he didn’t care about the city’s recent Super Bowl victory.
He joked, in his deep, panty-dropping English accent, “People keep asking me if I like the Eagles — and I say, yeah, they had a great first album!”
Yet, the crowd didn’t mind his constant mockery of our city. With that accent, he could get away with saying anything that he wanted — and he did. Half of the show was spent insulting Philadelphians, and he was sure to insert the f-bomb in between every other word, but we continued to swoon in between each demeaning remark.
How could we be mad when he gave us “Wonderwall” that night? And “Little By Little”? And “Don’t Look Back in Anger”? And did I mention that accent?
The 10-year-old inside of me was screaming — and the 21-year-old that everyone else saw calmly swayed with the rest of the crowd, as we all rose from the plush theatre seats. The venue certainly wasn’t designed for a show of its nature; listening to childhood favorites really makes you want to start a mosh pit and dance uncontrollably, but those seats in our way forced the crowd into undesirable elegance.
Aside from the Oasis classics, other new favorites from Gallagher included “She Taught Me How To Fly,” “Holy Mountain,” “Be Careful What You Wish For” and my personal favorite “It’s a Beautiful World,” which featured an unforgettable French monologue that really got the crowd even more excited.
Nobody wanted the concert to end and nobody was quite sure how they would manage to tie together such a distinctively captivating night. Their solution? Giving us yet another psychedelic, mind-bending experience through their rendition of “All You Need is Love.” And let’s just say, these Birds sure did those Beatles justice. The beautiful arrangement left me stunned once again.
I didn’t know what I was in for with this show and I’m still trying to process everything I saw that night.
All I really know for sure? I won’t look back in anger about this show.