|Noel Gallagher belts out a tune at Massey Hall in Toronto on Monday, November 7, 2011. (PHOTO: Mark O'Neill, QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Being first isnít always best it turns out.
Just ask British rocker Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame, who launched his first ever North American tour as a solo artist on Monday night at Massey Hall during the first of two back-to-back shows. His new act is actually called Noel Gallagherís High Flying Birds.
The 44-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist arrived months after his brother and former Oasis front man Liam Gallagher came to T.O. in late June to play with his solo act, Beady Eye, at the Sound Academy in support of his new disc, Different Gear, Still Speeding.
But while Liam was first out of the gate both with an album and tour, Noel wound up being the better of the two in a live setting.
The general consensus has always been that Noel writes the better songs and Liam is the better singer. Thatís still the case, but Noelís live act had more energy, dynamism and style with a huge LED screen behind him that said Noel Gallagherís High Flying Birds in huge letters when it wasnít showing videos, cool strobe and coloured lights,
More importantly, he dared to play Oasis songs, right alongside his new solo tunes - with his debut solo disc out Tuesday - during the course of his 90-minute set, while Liam has refused to.
In fact, Noel kicked off the night with two Oasis songs, (Itís Good) To Be Free and Mucky Fingers before delving into High Flying Birds territory with Everybodyís On The Run, Dream On and the popular single, If I Had A Gun, which prompted a big sing-along.
But when he pulled out an acoustic guitar and played stripped down versions of such huge Oasis hits as Wonderwall and Supersonic, the real male bonding amongst audience members - arm-in-arm and singing at the tops of their lungs - began.
Of his four side musicians, I particularly enjoyed keyboardist Mike Rowe, also on piano and organ, and drummer Jeremy Stacey, who looked like heíd walked off the set of A Clockwork Orange with his black bowler hat, as they backed him on Wonderwall and Supersonic, on piano and tambourine, respectively.
And of the newer tunes, it was such super-charged rockers as (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine, AKA... What a Life!, and Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks that stood out.
Then it was back to a trio of Oasis gems - Little By Little, The Importance of Being Idle and Donít Look Back In Anger - that made up the spirited encore.
Ultimately, of course, the best thing would be if Noel and Liam came back together for an Oasis reunion as itís their fractious sibling chemistry that truly makes them special. (Liamís been making noises about doing it in 2015.)
Noel actually talked about Liam as the show wound to a close when one fan near the front asked about him.
ďOur kid? Heís okay. Have you seen him?Ē
When the fan responded, he saw him buying some questionable shoes, Noel followed up with: ďWere they high heels? Heís secretly wearing womenís shoes? You heard it here first.Ē
Until a reunion, then Noel Gallagherís High Flying Birds is the closest things Oasis fans have to the real thing.
Noel also showed a level of bravery in launching his first North American solo tour in Toronto on Monday night, given the last time he was here he was rushed and injured by a drunken fan on stage during the Virgin Music Festival on Toronto Island in September 2008.
Not surprisingly, there was lots of security lining the front of the Massey Hall stage and aisles were kept clear by ever-vigilant ushers.
(Itís Good) To Be Free
Everybodyís On The Run
If I Had A Gun
The Good Rebel
The Death Of You and Me
(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine
AKA... What a Life!
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
AKA... Broken Arrow
Half The World Away
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
Little By Little
The Importance of Being Idle
Donít Look Back In Anger