Radio X Road Trip at The O2 Apollo, Manchester, UK – 2nd December 2015

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday Dec 2, 2015 Under Rock

Gig Review by Nic Jones

Johnny Marr – Martin Rickett/PA Wire

When XFM first started broadcasting it was a breath of fresh air for indie fans in the UK.  The antithesis to existing radio stations, it managed to bridge the divide between playing classic indie and alternative tracks and introducing and championing new bands. It was with some surprise that it was replaced earlier this year by ‘Radio X’, a similar offering but with new presenters like Chris Moyles and Johnny Vaughan brought in to revamp the offering and to recharge its appeal. Has it captured any new fans? Is it helping to rejuvenate the English indie scene? Time will tell, but there seems to be an initial commitment to bringing indie fans closer to their favourite acts through a series of pre-Christmas road trip gigs across the country.

We arrive at the Manchester stop on the trip in time to catch young Scottish band Neon Waltz, an endearing if not yet magnetic six piece indie band, running through their set. With a strong variety of material, it’s clear that they have a lot of potential which can only benefit from touring with and learning from more established performers. Track ‘Barewood Aisles’ is a highlight and a tune well worth checking out for those unfamiliar with them but intrigued to learn more.

Neon Waltz soon make way for a Manchester icon, Johnny Marr. What kind of a ‘warm-up act’ is Johnny Marr? A ridiculously good one. A too-good one. He’s so much more than the ‘support’, as is shown by the fact the venue is almost full as he takes the stage an hour before Noel. To say Marr is an established performer is to do him a disservice; he’s so at home on stage, he makes it look easy. Effortlessly cool with the back catalogue to match, Marr and his band roll through Smiths classics with finesse to the absolute joy of the crowd. Finishing his set with ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, Marr provides the audience with a moment of true elation and nostalgia. That one song performed live would be worth the ticket price in itself.

There’s really only one man who could follow such a lively act. We’ve seen Noel Gallagher three times in Manchester this year, and we’re still not used to the raw energy of his homecoming gigs. Chris Moyles may be heavily booed as he walks on stage to introduce the main man, but all he needs to do is to ask if the crowd is ready to see Gallagher and the room hits fever pitch. Manchester has not stopped loving the older Gallagher brother, and if he continues with performances like this, it never will.

Gallagher is in fine form from the get go. He looks so comfortable on stage, kicking off with ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ and racing into ‘Lock All the Doors’. Watching Gallagher this year, he looks like an artist who is completely ease with who they have become. He’s truly enjoying himself. And his performance is met with a wall of sound from his audience. There isn’t really time to breathe as he showcases tracks from his two albums, all of which this audience know by heart.

His solo material may well be loved, but when Noel Gallagher plays Oasis songs live to a room full of Mancunians it’s an experience like no other. People stand, faces upturned to the ceiling, arms raised aloft and sing their hearts out in joyful abandon. It’s true euphoria. Some of these songs are now over 20 years old, but no one has forgotten them and no one is ready to let them go just yet. ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Half The World Away’ capture everyone’s imagination;  he doesn’t even need to sing anymore, the crowd take on that responsibility for him and they love every single minute of it.

‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ makes for a spirited end to a great evening. If it was Radio X’s intention to show their commitment to established and new artists, they definitely achieved that. They also showed that they can bring in the heavyweight talent. Good luck topping that next year.

Noel Gallagher – Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds set list: 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

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