By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News
Noel Gallagher was backed by the 50-strong Crouch End Choir
Noel Gallagher stuck to familiar material at his first show since Oasis split - but promised that "brilliant" solo songs are on their way.
Despite speculation about his solo plans, he declined to play new songs at the first of two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
He told the crowd that the gig, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, was "not the right time or right place".
Instead, he rolled out 17 Oasis tracks - 16 of which dated from the 1990s.
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The sight of men in their 30s with arms outstretched, baring their souls as well as their paunches to the stage, is one that Noel Gallagher must be used to by now.
That emotional salute and surrender was a common sight up and down the tiers and around the edges of the Albert Hall, and became more frequent as this gig unfolded.
Former Oasis guitarist Gem Archer (left) joined Noel on stage
Another commonly-viewed phenomenon was the number of blokes (and some women) with arms around each other's shoulders, or beers aloft in approval, or bouncing up and down while singing their hearts out - some doing all of the above.
The fact that Noel did not avail us of any new material, or even play more than one track from the last 12 years, did not matter.
In fact, it was a good thing because it meant he could focus on material from the inspired and prolific songwriting patch he enjoyed in the mid-1990s.
So the crowd sang along in full voice to almost every song - they saluted, bounced and swayed as Noel strummed along to Wonderwall, Don't Look Back In Anger and Whatever.
Many instinctively knew every word to 15-year-old B-sides like The Masterplan, Half The World Away, Fade Away or Talk Tonight.
Noel brought the 50-strong Crouch End Choir to back him up - but he need not have bothered because they were totally drowned out by the enthusiasm of the crowd.
And as well as the singing, football-style chants of his name occasionally erupted on the Royal Albert Hall's terraces.
The reason for this level of involvement and devotion is that Noel's best songs make a primal connection with the listener, without them ever really being able to figure out why.
Noel and Liam Gallagher split after a bust-up last August
In those songs, he tapped into themes like romantic idealism, nagging insecurity, vanishing youth, domestic drama, dreams of escapism.
All of which struck a chord with his fans somewhere deep down, despite the fact that, if you actually listened to them, his lyrics did not make very much sense at all.
For Thursday's gig, rooted to his stool and strapped to his acoustic guitar, he picked the songs that suited the unplugged setting and his sensitive nature.
His partnership with brother Liam in Oasis was always one of yin and yang, where he would take on the more thoughtful material and Liam would be the macho, arrogant and tenacious one.
That means there were lots of Oasis songs that Noel did not, and probably would not, touch in a solo set. He steered clear of the bombast of tracks like Live Forever, Supersonic and Morning Glory, even if he wrote them.
Liam was not mentioned tonight. Despite being goaded by his estranged sibling - most notably at the Brit Awards - Noel is wise enough to be more diplomatic.
There were also no big-name special guests. Last time he played here, doing a very similar set for the same cause in 2007, he was joined by Paul Weller.
He was aided this time, though, by his former Oasis bandmate Gem Archer on guitar.
Gem had been rumoured to be in Liam's new band, so whether this means he has switched sides, or just stayed neutral, remains to be seen.
Tonight's gig was a rousing trip down memory lane, but the question still remains - what next for Noel? And, more to the point, will it compare to his past masterpieces?
- It's Good To Be Free
- Talk Tonight
- Fade Away
- Cast No Shadow
- Half The World Away
- Don't Go Away
- The Importance of Being Idle
- Listen Up
- Sad Song
- Rockin' Chair
- Slide Away
- Digsy's Dinner
- The Masterplan
- Married With Children
- Don't Look Back In Anger