Fall Arts: (What's the Story) Noel Gallagher?
Throughout much of the 1990s you'd have been hard-pressed to find a source of shameless rock-star swagger more dependable than the Gallagher brothers of Oasis. Liam on vocals, Noel on guitar, both of them armed with bushy eyebrows and what-do-you-want scowls—the pair epitomized an aggressive hauteur that musicians (other than Kanye West) just don't seem interested in embodying anymore. Among those suddenly bereft of bluster: Noel Gallagher, who on a sunny August afternoon sits in a West Hollywood hotel restaurant sipping a cappuccino and worrying about the first rehearsal with his new group, the High Flying Birds.
"I've gotta fly back to London today and play with five guys I've yet to play with," Gallagher says, not long after wrapping his part in a music video. "I know them all—they're friends of mine. But three of them don't know one another, and we've never played together before." He laughs ruefully. "I could be sitting there tomorrow night going, 'What a fucking huge mistake.'"
Meet the new boss, significantly less cocksure than the old boss. Gallagher formed the High Flying Birds—though, really, he's the sole permanent member—following Oasis's typically acrimonious breakup in 2009. (The only thing that bonded the Gallaghers more closely than their confidence was their mutual disgust.) Liam has a new band, too: Beady Eye, which released its debut earlier this year. But where that record picks up precisely where Oasis left off on Dig Out Your Soul, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (due out November 8) reveals a softer, dreamier side; it's full of grandly arranged pop songs and lush ballads with strings and horns—more Abbey Road than Revolver, to put it in terms familiar to any Oasis fan.
Gallagher assembled the album from a pool of 38 tunes he'd written, recording it in London and Los Angeles with producer Dave Sardy. (Why L.A.? "I'd like to tell you it's because of some romantic theory of American rock and roll, but it's all to do with commerce," Gallagher says. "If a studio in England costs you £2,000 a day, a studio in America will cost you $2,000 a day. You don't need to be a genius to work that out.") He's immensely proud of the music but acknowledges that playing the frontman is not a job that comes naturally. "I've done it before at acoustic gigs for charity, but in my head I was always doing somebody a favor, so fuck 'em," he says. "Standing in the middle of the stage and having to try and sell something to somebody—I'm not looking forward to that in the slightest."
Likewise, Gallagher is admittedly lukewarm on the concept of returning to venues the size of the Beacon Theatre, where he'll appear November 14 and 15. (In December 2008, Oasis played its final New York City gig at Madison Square Garden.) "There's no better medium than a stadium, fucking slaying 60,000 people," he says. "And now I've gotta go back down to the bottom and try to build it up again. If I'm being honest, I actually wish this were an Oasis album. But I can't turn back the clock on that."
So why bother, then? Surely, modern classics like "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" still generate enough dough to keep Gallagher in the crisp dress shirts to which he has become accustomed. "Well, I had a third child," he replies. "That'll get you out of the house." And besides, he adds with an impish grin, "I'm too good to do nothing."
Ah, yes—old habits, you know, they die hard.
Noel Gallagher, November 14-15,
Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, beacontheatre.com
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