Radio X Road Trip: Manchester
Wednesday 2nd December
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds + Johnny Marr

When XFM rebranded as Radio X in September, it caused furore for regressively calling itself “male-focused”. No less divisive was hiring Chris Moyles – the spiritual father of UniLad “bantz” – as its morning host. You might think that Moyles would receive a warm welcome tonight, but when the DJ strides onstage he’s stoned by a deafening cacophony of boos. The audience (split roughly 50/50 between men and women, thankfully women haven’t been shooed into a separate holding pen, where Vernon Kay will manspalin the finer points of Definitely Maybe) pelt him with a barrage of plastic cups and are unified in a one-finger salute. “Aww,” he responds. “And I was going to buy you all a pint.”

It doesn’t help Moyles that he follows Johnny Marr, a scion of anti-sexism and anti-homophobia, who’s greeted by the chant “JOHNNY! JOHNNY! JOHNNY FUCKING MARR!” On the night after Morrissey wins the Literary Review Bad Sex Award, he gives the crowd a bulbous salutation with powerful renditions of The Smiths songs ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, ‘How Soon is Now?’ and a closing ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. When he drops ‘Panic’ as the second track, the ferocity of the terrace chant of ‘Hang The DJ’ hints at what’s ahead for Moyles.

He strips Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’ of its electro chrome, performing a scuzzed-up punky version that sounds a bit like some-time bandmates The Cribs. Not that he needs to rest on his laurels: material from the two solo albums he’s released under his own name – such as the anti-capitalist sucker-punch ‘Easy Money’ and adrenaline-spiked new wave of ‘Generate! Generate!’ – effortlessly update his legacy, as does new song ‘Spiral Cities’, previewed tonight.

If Marr’s strength is his ability to seamlessly adapt to whatever band he finds himself collaborating with, Noel Gallagher’s is his immutability. In his signature zipped-up leather jacket, he’s not here to ruffle feather-cuts – but provide anthems that soundtrack lairy ‘you’re my behhst schmate’ hugging.

Opening with a grandiose ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ – from the High Flying Birds’ 2011 debut – he hurtles straight
into ‘Lock All The Doors’ (from this year’s album ‘Chasing Yesterday’), which cribs from David Essex’s ‘Rock On’, and roars into a Knebworth-ready monster. Augmented by a brass section, ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ shines, while ‘If I Had A Gun’ is becomes a reverential communal sing-along.

“Is this anybody’s first time in Manchester?” he enquires six songs into the set, referring to his home-turf. “This is what you’ve missed,” he says, introducing ‘Champagne Supernova’, while the the good vibes that greet ‘Half The World Away’ erases all memories of Aurora’s 50 Shades Of Beige version being used to hawk kettles at John Lewis this Christmas. Although Marr is here tonight, he fails to play their collaboration ‘Ballad Of The Mighty I’, which feels like a missed opportunity.

Sadly tonight’s set is only an hour-long and doesn’t give him too much time to indulge in his trademark patter. Really, you pray for an encore where he stands there for an hour, holding the NME 50 Albums of 2015 list aloft, letting the snark fly. Yet he’s still charismatic. “This one’s called…..” he holds his finger out the audience to fill in the blank, then shakes his head with mock-disappointment when they don’t respond ‘The Mexican’, and dedicates ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ to the “11 cousins from Liverpool” in the mob.

Stretching his wings musicaly with the house-influenced work-out of ‘AKA What A Life’ – which recalls his work with The Chemical Brothers – Gallagher ends with ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, cementing his status as a man as beloved as Moyles is apparently despised.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played:

‘Everybody’s On The Run’
‘Lock All The Doors’
‘In The Heat Of The Moment’
‘If I Had A Gun…’
‘Riverman’
‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’
‘Champagne Supernova’
‘Half The World Away’
‘The Mexican’
‘Digsy’s Dinner’
‘The Masterplan’
‘AKA…What A Life!’
‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’