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Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Royal Albert Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Royal Albert Hall

Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Royal Albert Hall

Old Britpop rivalries finally and historically put aside in the name of charity

Noel's Hall Party: The ex-Oasis man was the headliner but only half the story

"Noel. Noel." Damon Albarn had to shout twice before Noel Gallagher joined him onstage to strum his guitar during Blur's neo-bluesy "Tender". Maybe Albarn's former Britpop rival wanted their historic musical union to take just a little bit longer. Maybe he wanted Albarn to wait just to assert himself. Or maybe after all these years of standing between very loud bands and very loud audiences he is a little deaf. But it happened.

At around 8.30pm on Saturday March 23 the Britpop War was officially over. Churchill and Stalin at Yalta was maybe a more significant alliance, but only just.

Albarn and Gallagher had already bonded publicly at the Brits, but despite his delayed response it was Gallagher who seemed more pivotal in making last night's brief musical marriage happen. Firstly he invited Albarn and Graham Coxon to play at his Teenage Cancer Trust gig. And secondly, when he introduced them after an opening set from Gruff Rhys, he was more than happy to get his own fans immediately onside, explaining that they were doing something composed specifically for the night: "Sit down. Open your minds. Shut the fuck up."

Paul Weller played drums on 'Tender', while Gallagher stood and strummed at the centre of the stage between Albarn and Coxon

So, never mind the entente, what about the music? Following a tribute to the recently deceased Kevin Ayers in the form of a positively pastoral cover of "May I" Albarn welcomed two further guests onstage. Paul Weller perched himself quietly at the keyboards while veteran poet Michael Horowitz wandered to the microphone to read his lyrics about a "day in the life of Britain" full of references to owls and stars and other pretty things over a loose, modern free-jazzish musical backdrop that could only really be summed up as noodling.

Horowitz’s easy-going verse was greeted by polite but slightly baffled applause from a predominantly male audience decked out in Fred Perry and Ben Sherman, and who would probably rather have heard "Eton Rifles". Weller remained, but only to play drums on "Tender", while Gallagher stood and strummed at the centre of the stage between Albarn and Coxon. Sadly all the professional stills photographers had been booted out by then, but no doubt there is plenty of fuzzy phone footage online and the gig was being filmed, so there is solid proof that this was not a hallucination.

This was an emotionally charged high that Gallagher and his Flying Birds were never going to match with their infectious but meat and potatoes rock. After the interval they delivered a set which occasionally swooped and soared but mostly chugged. There was a splash of psychedelia-lite, some weighty rock and sparse versions of Oasis classics including "Wonderwall", "Supersonic" and the closing "Don't Look Back In Anger". At their best, on the jaunty early singles “AKA...What A Life!” and “Dream On’ with their big beefy choruses Gallagher's band genuinely got the blood pumping, but there was a lot of filler between the killer.

A smattering of B sides and lesser known old tracks pleased the Oasis contingent a lot more than the Albarn demographic. The hardcore fans – a mix of big, scary blokes and well-coiffed Miles Kane lookalikes – loved it of course, cheering, waving, hugging in a non-gay football fan way and looking up at the Albert Hall roof in ecstasy. In fact they were often more interesting to watch than the fairly anonymous band.

Gallagher is a good guitarist and not a bad frontman, even if some of his quips between songs were lost in the annoyingly unsubtle sound mix. The trouble is that his brother is a frontman par excellence and it is hard to shake the comparison once it pops into your head. But this gig was not about Noel and Liam at all. It was about Noel and Damon. Funnily enough, it turned out that it was Albarn’s 45th birthday. I doubt he will forget what he did to mark it if he lives to be ninety.

Watch Damon Albarn perform "Apple Carts" 

Churchill and Stalin at Yalta was maybe more significant, but only just


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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