Noel Gallagher review at Rock n Roll Circus in Sheffield by Rob Johnson

Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is a brand-new three-day festival in Sheffield that aims to combine live music with circus performers. It’s an ambitious brief. Due to train strikes, we found ourselves on the slowest bus of all time from Doncaster to Sheffield. As the stage time for The Cribs crept ever nearer, it was clear that we were going to miss some of it. In the end, we made it for the final three songs, and while it was a relief to catch the conclusion, the fact that the band sounded great only made our initial absence more frustrating. ‘Be Safe’ is as stirring as ever with its crashing and soaring chorus, ‘Mirror Kisses’ remains an all time classic and while ‘Pink Snow’ is a curious choice as a set closer, the slow build and intense crescendo suits the huge circus tent that makes up the main stage. Great stuff.

In between acts, there are various circus performers flying through the air, throwing fire about or balancing on a wire. It works so well that it’s a wonder that this kind of thing isn’t more prevalent. The Happy Mondays are up next, with lead singer Shaun Ryder himself playing the part of the demented circus ringmaster bellowing his strange and wonderful lyrics to the backdrop of the band’s groovy bass and unmistakable guitar. Bez acts as hype man and long-time vocalist Rowetta gives their now classic songs an extra sparkle. ‘Kinky Afro’ still sounds as fresh as it did in 1990 and by the time ‘Hallelujah’ rolls around everyone is doing the Bez dance. ’24 Hour Party People’ and a joyous rendition of ‘Step On’ close things out with Ryder and Bez bounding around the stage like naughty school kids while Rowetta plays the role of headmistress. It’s a terrific set from an iconic band.

From one Manchester legend to another then as Shaun Ryder makes way for Noel Gallagher. From the moment The Chief strides onstage the sense of excitement is palpable. Noel’s new album Council Skies has been well received by fans and this is clear to see based on the reaction to ‘Pretty Boy’ and the title track. The setlist is split into three distinct sections beginning with new tracks, then delving into the rest of Noel’s solo albums before closing out with a series of Oasis covers.

The net result of this is that the tension and the excitement build throughout the evening resulting in an unforgettable conclusion. Tracks like ‘If I Had a Gun…’ and ‘In the Heat of the Moment’ are treated like old friends but it is the first notes of classic Oasis B-side ‘Going Nowhere’ that signal a sea change. You can almost hear the collective intake of breath. These songs still mean so much to so many.

‘The Importance of Being Idle’ still sounds imperious, ‘The Masterplan’ is simply majestic and ‘Half the World Away’ inspires a singalong that most artists can only dream of. A reminder that the latter two songs were also originally released as B-sides. Crackers. ‘Little by Little’ closes out the first part of the set before the band returns to the stage for an exuberant cover of the Bob Dylan classic ‘Quinn the Eskimo’.

And now… for the big hitters. Noel performs an acoustic version of ‘Live Forever’ alone and it is simply incredible. The adoring Sheffield crowd responded in kind. ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ closes things out, of course. Normally, I don’t much care for the singer allowing the crowd to sing the entire song but, on this occasion, it feels like a real moment. This song belongs to the people now. It’s an emotive end to an incredible set.

With every new Noel Gallagher release there is always speculation about an Oasis reunion. On this form, it really doesn’t feel necessary. Noel is still the king.

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