LAST week, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played a storming set to bring the curtain down on a great Live at the Marquee series of shows in Cork.
During the gig, Gallagher bantered with audience members, and even caused a bit of a YouTube sensation with his comical reply to a heckler who asked ‘Where’s Liam?’. Look it up; far too many expletives to do it justice here.
But, just to get it out of the way, will there be an Oasis reunion? It’s been sought by everyone from Paul McCartney to Noel’s older brother Paul. “I don’t give a fuck about what anybody called Paul has to say about anything,” quips Gallagher, adding that he’s really tired of the question.
So we drop it and move straight onto the pulsing new album, Chasing Yesterday, which feels like the songs were written for live performance. Were they?
“No, I didn’t choose the songs to record for any other reason than I felt they were the best songs I had at the time,” he says. “Doing ‘The Riverman’ for the first time live was quite a prospect because it’s not something I would have thought would sound very good, but my band are so good that they could do it; I was pleasantly surprised.”
Unfortunately, his three favourite songs on the album wouldn’t work in the live arena.
”I just couldn’t pull it off, I’m afraid,” he explains with typical self-deprecation.
“I am fully aware of my own limitations. I know exactly where the wall is when I hit it, and I am not going to go onstage in front of thousands of paying punters and do it for the sake of it. It has to be good, and I have to make it look easy.”
Well, he certainly does that onstage. Easy, but not polished, not showbiz glib. And, as we saw in Cork, a magnificent live performance is often interspersed with plenty interaction with the audience.
“Sometimes the crowd is so far away and there’s not a great deal to say. And I’m not one of those frontmen who really wants people to love me. I don’t give a fuck if they have a good time or not, to be quite frank,” he says.
“I’m up there and I’m playing, and if you get it, you get it; if you don’t, that’s great too. I don’t give a shit; I have no words of wisdom for you. Some nights are better than other in terms of engaging with audiences, but it’s not something I go out of the way to do. I know people who go out on the road and it’s all scripted; I don’t do any of that shit. If spontaneous things occur, there you go.”
Gallagher’s forthrightness and his sharp responses have made him a go-to guest to liven up TV chat shows. He’s shudderingly honest, and accepts being interviewed as part of the process of selling his music; the fact that he’s really good at it is just a bonus.
However, he was not tempted by repeated approaches from Simon Cowell to join the X Factor panel. He enjoys his home life too much; he lives in a house called ‘Supernova Heights’ in London with wife Sara MacDonald and their two boys, Donovan (8) and Sonny (5), and his two cats, Benson and Hedges, named after his favourite cigarettes.
When Noel and Sara are not out on the town with, say, Noel’s long time mate Russell Brand, they like nothing better than watching TV with the boys. Squeezing X Factor into that mix is not an option.
“Simon Cowell is a nice guy, I didn’t just give him a blank no. He was very insistent, he was not taking no for an answer. I have been asked to go on X Factor for five years in a row now, even this year. But I don’t want to be on television every Saturday night.
“I love Saturday night in with the kids, unless we’re going out of course. The two young ones won’t go to bed on a Saturday without watching You’ve Been Framed; I love it, it’s one of the best things ever on telly. The elder of the two boys will stay up and watch Take Me Out. I also don’t mind Ant and Dec — a pair of Geordie idiots, but I don’t mind them.”
Gallagher clearly still enjoys a party, but there’s no regret in his voice when he admits to now having very little memory of Oasis rocking Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork in 1996. Himself, Liam and the others were “at the height of our madness” at the time. He says that lifestyle was great. Seen that, done that.
Nonetheless, it sounds like the next generation of Gallaghers already have one eye on the glamour of the music business. Recently, the kids have been asking him about whether he’ll still be on the road when they finish school.
“That’s in about 15 years, and I’m thinking, ‘I’ll still probably be on this fucking tour’.
“I wouldn’t bring them with me on the road all the time. They’d be complaining about the boredom. There’s a lot of hanging around on the road; that’s why people are drug addicts, alcoholics and speed freaks. There’s fuck-all else to do apart from that hour and a half onstage.”
Besides his family and music, the other great love of Gallagher’s life is sport. The internet is dripping with Gallagher’s forthright views on topics such as Manchester City, Roy Keane (who he loves despite being a United legend), and he also has the distinction of scoring at Croke Park as a promising teenage Gaelic football player.
“There’s a picture of me somewhere scoring a point. I haven’t seen the picture for years. I was in a Gaelic football team in Manchester, and we were a great team too. All the Irish social clubs that were attached to the churches all had Gaelic football teams.
“We played for a team called Oisín’s, which was attached to Saint Kentigern’s [or ‘St Kent’s’, an Irish social club which still exists in Manchester]. We were Lancashire champions for years, under-12s, under-14s, under-16s and under-18s. I played soccer as well.
“And then I gave up both when I discovered marijuana. I thought that would probably serve me better in the long run! And then, through marijuana, I picked up the guitar. And here we are.”
Of course, also last Tuesday, several hours before Gallagher’s Marquee show, Man City unveiled their own new marquee signing, Raheem Sterling.
“I think he’s a great player. When Liverpool were playing for the title, Liverpool fans were quick to tell you he was one of the best players in England, one of the best players in the world. Now, of course, he’s shit isn’t he!
“I think in our team, with the half a dozen world class players we’ve got, I think he’ll be good. Before you get to it, is he worth £49m? No, is he fuck. If you were a football club and all you had was £49m and you spent it all on one 20-year-old who has yet to prove himself, that might be considered a bit mad.
“But as it’s City we’re talking about, and we’ve got more money than can ever conceivably be imagined by any football supporter, particularly a Liverpool supporter, then it doesn’t matter a shit to us how much we’ve paid for him. The money is completely and utterly irrelevant.”
As down-to-earth as ever, you’d imagine money also isn’t at the top of Gallagher’s concerns. He’s still motivated by that burning desire to write brilliant songs, and when he finishes this tour, is back in the studio to work on a new album.
No matter what he does, he’ll probably be dogged by questions about his brother and his former band. As always, he’ll just shrug them off and get on with making his own music. “I really, really enjoy it and I don’t want to do anything else,” he says.
QUESTIONS OF TASTE
No such thing as a guilty pleasure.
Despicable Me II.
I don’t really read books, so I could have six films then: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Usual Suspects; Star Wars IV and V (which is Star Wars I and II really); Nuns On The Run II; Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot; and Spinal Tap.
Baby koala, because they’re on acid, aren’t they? Don’t they produce their own psychedelic trip with eucalyptus or something? They’re always tripping. Foxes would just eat you out of house and home.