Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Snow Patrol at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, 10/31/12
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Snow Patrol
with Jake Bugg
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The pairing of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Snow Patrol at Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Wednesday initially didn't seem that odd but as both the sets played out it was obvious that Noel Gallagher is essentially a living legend who can do anything he wants (and mostly has, really) while Snow Patrol, while a fully capable band, have simply chosen the easy route and seem to have made the same mid-tempo, semi-tearjerker song over and over again so many times it was hard to make a much of a distinction between songs by the end.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds -- a clunky band name if there ever was one -- began their set anything but with an unexpected cover of Oasis' "(It's Good) To Be Free," a B-side from 1998's The Masterplan compilation and quickly moved into "Everybody's On the Run" from their new self-titled debut. It was immediately engaging and also a little disarming to see Gallagher doing something (not too) different in a much smaller, though not necessarily intimate, setting.
He seemed more vulnerable, human as he asked the crowd, "How's everybody doin' tonight?" in his unmistakable, marble-mouthed Mancunian accent to a wave of hooting and applause. They offered up a rousing version of "If I Had a Gun" with it's driving guitar and now-trademark "oohs" from Gallagher which are sometimes more enjoyable to hear than any actual lyrics -- which are often formidable themselves.
"I've come as an Englishman; or I should say, 'A fuckin' British guy,'" Gallagher joked during a too-long break between songs, giving a nod to Halloween while offering the quasi-punchline in a mock American accent before breaking into the instantly recognizable opening bars of Oasis' "Wonderwall," from 1995's powerhouse (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, which drew the largest cheers for either band all night. While the entirety of the Roy sang at the top of their lungs, the stage lights sprayed bright white upon the crowd, illuminating the auditorium. They threw in another Oasis tune, "Talk Tonight," and after a couple of other new ones they ended with two more Oasis classics, "Whatever" and the always-lovely "Don't Look Back in Anger." It was a solid, rollicking -- if too cover-heavy -- set and was light years ahead of what followed.
Snow Patrol's set began with an Earth-as-atom graphic that faded to read "St. Paul" and the crowd should have known there was trouble brewing from there. They opened with "Berlin," at one point altering the lyrics to wedge the word "Minnesota" into a passage and things started to slowly slide downhill. After a pretty great version of "Take Back the City" from 2008's middling A Hundred Million Suns (the set's lone outstanding offering), lead singer Gary Lightbody went into a directionless speech about the Twin Cities being a "standard for brother/sisterhood in the world," to much applause which caused a giant smile to appear his face -- it was pandering at its very worst.
The mostly phoned-in set hobbled along with "This Isn't Everything You Are" and a newer song called "Dark Roman Wine," that sounded more like a Catholic funeral dirge than a Snow Patrol song, made all the more preposterous when Lightbody claimed it was the best song the band had written to date. "Shut Your Eyes" and "Chasing Cars" followed soon after, all the while Lightbody asking the crowd to clap, help with "ooh"s and "ahh"s -- essentially begging the crowd to praise the band without asking for outright applause -- it was exceptionally painful to witness that kind of insecurity on display.
The key to/curse of this band is "Chasing Cars," as it's their most recognizable song, but also because everything else they had to offer on Wednesday sounded extraordinarily similar to it. They caught lightning a bottle once and have now tried to open a bottling line. "Called Out In the Dark" is a perfect example, as is "Open Your Eyes." By the end it seemed the Roy was simply awash in manufactured, yet somehow smug, pain capable only of drawing crocodile tears at best. By the time they had finished their undeserved encore with "Just Say Yes," it was hard not to want to just say "yes" to anything but leaving as quickly as possible--though many people had already.
Critic's Bias: I was excited to see Noel Gallagher in a live setting, as it was my first time doing so. He surpassed my expectations and I was grateful for that. I was wary of Snow Patrol but went in with an open mind, as live shows often change the way I feel about a band. They were much worse than I had anticipated, though I wasn't as let down as I thought I might be.
The Crowd: Much older than you'd think, especially with the core crowd of teenagers Snow Patrol attracts.
Overheard in the Crowd: "That is a dying art." Said to me by KSTP's Chris Long, who was two seats over, as I held a lighter in the air during "Wonderwall."
Notebook Dump: [in reference to Snow Patrol] In the '80s this would have been considered terrible light rock but now, three decades later, this band has managed to seem edgy to people. It's confounding to say the least.
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