Noel Gallagher is not a visionary. He’s not a poet or a confessor, an innovator or an experimenter. What he is is a craftsman, and a very good one at that. For more than two decades as the architect behind Oasis and in front of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, he’s diligently worked his songs, seeming never to lean on anything as unreliable as a flash of inspiration. Saturday at the Opera House, he and the band that bears his name were there to do a job, and they did it handily.
Gallagher opened by holding steady on one repeated note and a “Hey-ey-ey!” chant until it slowly divebombed into the psychedelia-in-stasis of “Fort Knox.” It aimed to overwhelm and it succeeded, something Gallagher would return to time after time. The shuddering, shimmering “It’s a Beautiful World” was kept aloft in part by a recurring bobble in Russell Pritchard’s bass, while the buzzy, air-cushioned New Wave drive of “She Taught Me How to Fly” was effortless and gorgeously melodic, with a weightless momentum.
The flip side was that the band sometimes fused into a unified roar, with few extraneous details poking through. An icy piano occasionally rose above the melancholy of “Riverman,” and Gem Archer’s pealing, economical guitar solo stepped forward from the snarling skiffle of “The Importance of Being Idle.” But there were also duds like the one-chord “Be Careful What You Wish For” and a small handful of songs — including “In the Heat of the Moment” and “Black & White Sunshine” — built from the same bones as Oasis’s “Supersonic.”
The rest had enough color and vigor to make up for such lulls. The trippy, Pink Floydian verses of “Little by Little” blossomed into a joyous chorus with an ecstatic vocal melody. “Half the World Away” was transformed into a country-rock clop, with a three-piece horn section adding a drunken reverie that, tethered to a Britpop bounce, made “Dream On” sound like “Muswell Hillbillies”-era Kinks cranked to 11.
As reputationally mandated, Gallagher was his typically punchy self, albeit with a good-natured spin that kept the crowd on his side even when he took unprovoked shots at Tom Brady’s recent Super Bowl loss and slagged anew a fan who had handed him a demo CD the last time he played Boston. But that’s part of the package, alongside the arched eyebrow with which he sang “Holy Mountain” and the casual Beatles and Hollies nicks in that song and “Ballad of the Mighty I.” And where his old band’s go-to Fab Four cover was “I Am the Walrus,” Gallagher closed with an appropriately rollicking “All You Need Is Love,” tossing in a Rutles quote at the end, one Beatles-inspired act tipping its hat to another.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
At the Boston Opera House, Saturday, Feb. 17Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc