The U2 frontman presented Noel Gallagher with his Outstanding Contribution Award. He reflects on when they first met and why Britpop changed everything.
Where did you first meet Noel Gallagher? I’m not sure. I think it was in whatever his basement flat was. I can’t remember the street but they were just out of the gate. I remember being in that basement and talking shite. And watching his shite turn into gold has been one of the great pleasures of my life. I think the next time I saw him, we talked about a support slot. And he said, “You’ll do it then?” And I said, “Yeah.” He was talking about them giving us the support, which is why I love him. Because he makes me laugh. He gave me his autograph. Were Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? on your radar at the time? Of course. Both of those albums changed everybody’s lives, including mine. They occupy that space where they own a moment of your life, they own you – you are no longer in control of your emotional life when you hear any of those tunes. Right up to recent times, he has me. He has that rare thing, it’s very un-Irish, where he refuses to surrender to melancholy. So when he does it just breaks you right open. But most of the time, he’s defiant. And defiance is the essence of romance, is it not? Did the Britpop era register with you? It changed everything. It was pretty miserable at the time. In fact, you got extra gold stars the more miserable you were. Apparently, that made you more authentic. I always thought there were two sounds that bands made: the sound of people who wanted to get out of their garage and get on that big stage, and the sound of bands who wanted to stay in their garage because it was their daddy’s garage and it was probably kitted out with a fridge. And you just got the feeling from Oasis that they wanted to get out of that garage. The ambition was The Beatles, the Stones: “Let’s get out of here.” Historically, you can look back at the ’ 90s as almost a hip-hop kind of moment for the UK. Oasis’s stance – it was completely un-indie. And that freed up music. There was a desire to be heard. Noel was doing things that nobody was doing. The big, hairy Neil Young notes – that was like farting at that time. He took whatever he wanted. He thought, “What do you mean we can’t have ambition? Who says that? Nobody we care about ever thought that. We’re going to have this.” The ambition of U2 had been hard for people to accept, and suddenly it seemed like, “Oh, we’re not the outliers any more.” Have you ever tried to write a song together? Yeah, we have. But very late at night and probably not for human consumption. It might be interplanetary. It’s a song that will finally prove that there’s no life on earth. What’s been the highlight of 2018 for you? I shouldn’t tell you this, I don’t know how meaningful it would be to you, but the band played some New York shows, in Madison Square Garden. And I looked around and went, “Oh my, this is the most potent this band has ever been.” It’s not like there was an earlier period where I thought, “This is nearly as good as back then.” This is like better. Then I realised they’ve always been very good-to-great. I heard early Marquee shows back and realised the band, the musicians in the band, have always been very good-to-great, but I wasn’t. I was a great lightning rod and frontman, but when I heard those Marquee shows from 1980, I don’t think I was great. But I’ve caught up with them. You lost your voice a few songs into a show in Berlin in September. What did that feel like? It was emasculating. I didn’t know quite what it was. I had nothing wrong with my voice before the show. It wasn’t laryngitis. That’s what made people alarmed. It was some allergic reaction, and it just turned it off. Turned off the voice.
“Oasis occupy a space where they own a moment in your life. They own you.”
“Honoured, I’m sure”: Noel feels the love from early adopter and BFF, Bono.
Hail to The Chief! Award presenter Bono sings Noel’s abundant praises.