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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds bring glory and emotions to Cannock Chase Forest Live gig

Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher certainly owned the stage - made even more mesmerising by the enchanted backdrop of Cannock Chase Forest.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox

Gallagher's band was the last main act to bless the stage at Forestry England’s ‘Forest Live’ four-day concert series on Sunday.

A sea of people were eagerly waiting for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds while some upbeat dance music played - a drop of rain fell, met with a symphony of groans.

They soon turned to whoops, cheers and whistles as the band walked onto the stage and immediately started playing the first song on the list, Fort Knox, probably chosen for its drum beat that you can’t help but to bop your head to, and the almost ethereal backing vocals that echoed across the crowd.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox

Noel kept it cool in a black denim jacket and dark jeans, holding what looked like a Fender Strat in Olympic white - that’s ‘cream’ to you and I - with a brown pickguard.

The stage was full for the first song; on the left there were three backing singers holding a pair of maracas each, complimenting the rhythm. In front of them, another backing vocalist with a tambourine, and next to her, HFBs’ electric keyboardist and singer, Jessica Greenfield. Two metres from her was bassist Russell Pritchard, Noel in the middle, and to the right of him, a guitarist that looked like Liam Gallagher with a buzzcut.

It was actually former Oasis and Beady Eye guitarist Gem Archer.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox

Mikey Rowe, the band’s pianist, was in between two electric pianos, providing incredible melodies for each song.

Behind him was a brass band trio composed of a saxophonist, trumpeter and trombonist.

And finally there was Chris Sharrock, the drummer, who provided distinct rhythms throughout. He’s been friends with the Gallagher brothers since Oasis, and more recently supplied the beat for Liam Gallagher’s rock band, Beady Eye, before their demise in 2017.

Finishing the first song on the main, open-air stage of Forest Live, Noel greeted the crowd - a good choice; doing it before the first song may have slightly detracted from the sheer emphasis it brought.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox

“Hello, Cannock Chase!” - the crowd went wild. One of diversity, all with a mutual love for the music.

Observing the crowd, he said, “Look at this, do they sell bucket hats in Ikea?”. The joke was well taken.

Noel’s stage presence was confident and relaxed, as he continued to joke with his fans between songs. At one point, he asked the crowd what football team they ‘support here’ and was met with a noise of different responses, to which the Manchester City fan cheekily replied: “Right, well I’ve never heard of any of them!”

The crowd enjoyed a couple of Oasis’s best songs along with a setlist of Noel’s High Flying Birds material, including Holy Mountain, Keep On Reaching, It's a Beautiful World, Dead in the Water and Little by Little.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Forest Live. Photo: Dave Cox

The band then performed four of their most popular Oasis songs consecutively, which really got the crowd excited, singing at the top of their lungs. They were: The Importance of Being Idle - my personal favourite - Half the World Away and Wonderwall, followed by Stop Crying Your Heart Out.

And to top it all off, the gig finished with Don’t Look Back in Anger, which got everyone reaching towards the sky, hands waving in the air. An emotional, surreal, and incredible gig, to say the least.

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