-Noel Gallagher on The White Album
Filter Magazine, Fall ‘08
While walking on First Avenue in Seattle, about a half mile from Qwest Field, I passed Ryan Adams. I did a double take, literally spun around and watched him walk up the road. We made eye contact for just a second, and I wondered if I’d really seen him or was it his Seattle twin? When he walked out on stage wearing the same black skinny jeans and black-rimmed glasses, I knew. I made eye contact with one of my favorite musicians, and what’s funny is that I’d been walking around listening to him.
Before the show, I stuck my head into a hotel bar called Jimmy’s. On my way there, I passed a blonde guy wearing what resembled a circus conductor’s jacket. He and his girlfriend had been smoking outside, and I hadn’t realized they’d come in behind me until someone started talking to him. I heard him say, “Actually, I’m playing the show tonight. I’m in the opener.”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
I turned around. “I knew you looked familiar. I was just listening to you.”
He’s the guitarist, whose name I'm misplacing. Katy'll remind me. (Katy, remind me.)
He seemed surprised, but flattered and not bothered. I told him that I thought I’d just passed Ryan. He said, “Well, that wouldn’t surprise me if he’s running around. The hotel’s up that direction.”
I left him alone and finished my stupidly expensive Hefeweizen. When he walked on stage, he’d exchanged the conductor’s jacket in favor of a button-up and a vest.
At 3pm, I was not the only one already standing outside the venue. First, I spoke to two Peruvian brothers, who flew up just for the show, then I met Jay and Kara, a couple from LA who have actually met Liam and Noel. Kara has one of Liam’s tambourines, which he gave her during a gig at which she wore a Beatles Sgt. Pepper shirt. Then we all spoke to Jason, a guy from New Orleans with a Don’t Believe the Truth track jacket, along with a British guy, who had yet to find a ticket (he did later, about Row 9 center, for $120). We realized that Oasis was running through their soundcheck, and the four of us, plus the Peruvians, plus three guys who are seeing almost the whole leg of the tour — We all crouched down onto the sidewalk and peered through the glass where the paper didn’t quite cover the doors. Noel stood on stage, playing “Rock n Roll” star. No vocals. Liam’s not around, of course. Earlier, we’d heard Noel singing — we couldn’t place the song — before we’d had the idea with the door. The staff outside didn’t really care that we wandered around. In fact, we ended up deciding for them where the line should start.
Yes, I was one of the very first in line. They didn’t hassle me about my camera, and we were in. In the process, we met a mother and daughter from Long Island, along with a Greek guy also from NYC. The mother and daughter let out an “eeee!” of joy the second we got inside. I hit up the merch booth right away, plunked down my $45 for a t-shirt and poster, knowing that for anyone else, I would not have bothered. I wish I’d had the money to blow on the track jacket.
For whatever reason, they’d added Matt Costa to the bill. He was doing a last minute soundcheck when they let everyone in at 5:30, so we weren’t allowed into the actual theater area just yet. Jay, Kara, Jason and I sat and chatted for a few minute before we all were able to find our seats. We made plans to email any photos we took.
Let me tell you, when I saw how close Row 9 was, I wanted to hit anyone involved with Ticketmaster for booting me the first time I tried to book tickets. However, Row 18, Seat 15 was an aisle sea, right in line between Liam and Noel’s stage positions. Fantastic.
Matt Costa played a short, 30 minutes-ish set, and while I wouldn’t run out and buy his stuff, I didn’t mind listening to him.
He seemed just shocked that he could open for Ryan Adams and Oasis, and the audience seemed to like him well enough.
Ryan and The Cardinals — I messed with the manual settings on my camera, and it just wasn’t coming together for me. The lighting was a bit low, and the camera is not an SLR, so the shots weren’t quite as good. (Oasis, oddly enough, looked best in auto mode. I don’t know if I just should have done that in the first place.) However, I am glad that I’d given myself a Ryan refresher beforehand — he has a ton of material, some I’ve only recently acquired — and knowing almost all the songs really made it for me. By far, the biggest surprise was “Shakedown on 9th,” off Heartbreaker. It’s one of my favorites, but that has a little to do with the line, ”Lucy! Lucy, my gal” and how it riles the cat.
So. Ryan Adams sure has some skinny legs. Those things may as well be some people’s arms. He talked a little between songs. He introduced “Let It Ride” by saying, “This one’s about sucking face.”
Before “Everyone Knows”: “This song goes out to our friend Ray in Tennessee.” He goes on about some story regarding Ray getting hurt hunting bison in Alaska and how “Bison aren’t like unicorns. They’re multi-corns. Do Bison still exist?” Someone yells out Yellowstone. “So this one goes out to Ray, hunting possibly prehistoric animals.”
Before “Two”: “This song is about bringing down math. You count to any more than 4 or 5, and after that, it’s just a lot. I’m from south of the Mason-Dixon line. Any more than 4 or 5, and well, that’s a lot.”
“Easy Plateau” about tore the roof off the place, just a pounding swirl of noise and lights at the end. A fantastic closer. I loved every second of the set, and I can’t believe I passed right by him and got a “You’re looking at me” look from the man. “Two” sounded just beautiful — one of my favorites — and I liked hearing “Rescue Blues,” since it’s a semi-oldie.
The take down time between sets was less then 20 minutes. Always a sign of bands that have been at this awhile— they don’t feel around. No ridiculous set pieces here, just good lighting and video screens for visuals.
Before the concert, Tyson said over the phone, “You’re going to cry, aren’t you?” I thought it’d be in the realm of possibility, despite my status as a non-public crier. However, when Oasis walked out on stage, I just stopped breathing for a moment.
You all know of my major love affair with everything Noel Gallagher does, but when Liam stepped up to the mic in all his swagger, he just owned the place. He takes all the energy in the room and commands its focus — it’s really something. Liam’s tendency to stay put on stage does not come from lack of imagination. No, Liam Gallagher stays put because he can. Less frontmen might hide behind the jumping around, using that energy to boost and distract. Sure, there’s a place for all that, but with Liam, all he’s got to do is stare straight ahead and you’re hooked. It’s about the songs, his voice, and it’s a very honest way of going about it.
(It also makes taking a photo a lot easier, especially when my hands were fidgety with excitement already...)
But Noel, Lord... Noel, I could hardly believe I was looking at him. The white striped shirt, the patch of grey hair at the front— he was exactly how I thought he’d be. If Liam’s other worldly, a force to be reckoned with, then Noel’s the one tapped into the deepest part of my brain, just woven right into the fabric of everything else. The two of them on stage together are simply stunning. If there’s anything I love, it’s a person who’s not afraid to be the best in the room. They don’t fool around. You find your calling and then, dammit, you go go go until you are the example by which others are measured.
(Explains a lot in my choice of a spouse, really.)
No, I did not cry like Tyson predicted, but “The Shock of The Lightning” and “Slide Away” almost had me. I could feel that burn in my cheeks, but singing and crying don’t mix. I swelled with just pure relief of finally making it. They had every instrument set to avalanche levels, just buried everyone inside the sound.
I thought of Grace during “Lyla.” I just love that she says it’s her favorite song.
“Meaning of Soul” made me particularly happy. It’s one of my favorites from Don’t Believe The Truth. I just love the big, stomp-along beat and ”I’m a different breed/ You know, I’m outta your league/ I’m 10 outta 10 all right.”
“To Be Where There’s Life” was the only new one I wasn’t at all familiar with. The new album’s title, Dig Out Your Soul, comes from that one. Another big and loud one.
“The Masterplan” had Noel saying, “you might remember this one.” They piped in the strings sample and it was a great, slightly stripped down version.
Oh now “Songbird” and “Slide Away” stood out, just giant highlights. Not only does “Songbird” have claps at the end, but it’s just a nice little love song. “Gonna write a song so she can see/ Give her all the love she gives to me...” Andy got on the keyboards for that one.
“Slide Away” may just be the perfect love song. Wow. “Live Forever” may be my favorite song, but this comes in very close. Not often performed live, Liam introduced it as, “Here’s an old one.”
They didn’t do a lot of talking between songs. Noel did a little more than Liam, as usual, but they kept the business of rock n roll moving.
“Ain’t Got Nothing,” I’d already heard the leaked demo and it did not disappoint. The wait for the new album will be trying. Noel’s self-sung “The Importance of Being Idle” didn’t surprise me by popping up in the set, as he seems quite proud of that one.
Liam’s voice has evolved quite a bit from where he first tried singing “nice” on parts of Definitely Maybe (if you listen to the demo of “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” it’s like hearing a different person). His mix of snarl/drawl struck me the most during “Wonderwall.” He’s always said that if he could be the perfect mix of John Lennon and John Lydon, then he’d be doing his job. If you want a good idea of where his voice hit at this, I suggest listening to “Won’t Let You Down” or the leaked “Ain’t Got Nothing” demo.
Noel’s voice soared as it always does. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” got the guitar treatment, and the NME has a video up. At the point where people tend to sing for him, he commented that it sounded Australian. There’s something about his intonation that, for lack of less flowery language, sends a flutter up through me every time. “Falling Down,” of which I’ve already heard the Chemical Brothers remix, is just transcendent, dance beat or no. The “ooh”s alone... Man.
Hearing “Champagne Supernova,” the song that first caught my attention, pleased me. Sure, they didn’t play “Live Forever,” but they’ve played it in so many sets that I can see the appeal of working in other big set closers that everyone knows.
To be honest, I don’t often listen to their cover of “I Am the Walrus.” I always had the feeling that I’d missed something in the delivery. Hearing it live and in person made all the difference.
At the soundcheck (according to a list posted online) and at the warm-up, 150 person gig in London, they played “My Big Mouth,” but did not during the show. If I had to list any disappointment, it’d be that. Be Here Now usually goes under appreciated, and that song’s one of my favorites from the album. (“I Hope, I Think, I Know” will always be too much for which to hope, I’m afraid.)
Liam and Gem both rocked the scarf. I dig the scarf. Not everyone can pull off the scarf (though many a hipster doofus will try), but when worn well... Have I mentioned that Tyson looks great in a scarf? A winter scarf, mind, but all the same. Andy looked older in person, for whatever reason. Less blonde too. And for all Noel’s joking that they were after the Spinal Tap record, Chris the new drummer did really well. There’s some serious drumming on the new stuff he’s had to learn.
In person, Liam looked... smaller? That’s not the right adjective. I’ve been searching for the right word. Shorter isn’t correct because he’s about average height and I knew that. Thinner’s not quite right either, but he doesn’t wear the giant shirts and jackets anymore, so... more tailored? Maybe.
After the show, when I met back up with Jay and Kara, Kara looked at my photos of Liam with his back turned to the drummer and she said, “Nice ass shot there.”
“Yeah... That’s kinda what I was going for.”
Well, really. He’s something else. You quit wearing giant clothes and I am required by the unwritten laws of female fanhood to take a picture. Amen.
I did not make any post-gig attempts to meet anyone because it was absolutely pouring down rain and I didn’t bring a jacket. Jay and Karen were going to make a go of it, but I just had to track down the bus and get back to my room. They said that if I’m ever in LA for a show, that I should get in touch. How very atypical for me — people aren’t just amused by my... enthusiasm. They were even big Ryan Adams fans, so that was cool. I’ll be curious to heat if Jay met Gem like he wanted. (Amanda, didn’t Gem wave at you once? Or was that Andy?)
Really, it’s all a bit unreal. Waiting 12 years for this was almost too long, but at least I am seeing them in their most stable of times. They’ve found a way to go about it now, and while kids and all that make the space between albums longer (“We certainly don’t hurt for songs,” Liam says), I’m so glad that they’ve carried on and that the quality of the new songs really is exciting.
Yes, I know. You’re just smiling and nodding, if you’ve even made it this far. It’s the sort of unyielding love that’s hard to explain, but there’s really no point in downplaying it. It is what it is, and it will always be.
On the bus ride home, a woman said to her husband regarding Liam, “I don’t know, it’s like he thinks he’s just too fucking cool.”
It’s not a matter of thinking, lady.
(My photos from the concert can be seen HERE.)