Noah & The Whale

Noah and the Whale are only on their third album and have achieved a lot in the last three years. The first album included Laura Marling as a member and was fairly whimsical. However, they really took off with their heartbreak 2009 album, The First Days of Spring, which was inspired by lead singer Charlie Fink’s breakup with Marling. Like many break-up albums it was a great record (Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks being perhaps the greatest). But their real commercial breakthrough came with last year’s Last Night on Earth album.

Lucy Rose

It is pretty well a sold-out gig at the Civic. First on is support, singer-songwriter Lucy Rose. She performs her set with acoustic guitar, sitting on a stool, accompanied by her five-piece band. She has a nice voice and performs a quiet, contemplative set, which is well received by the audience, who are still filing in for the main event during her set.

Lucy Rose band

Noah and the Whale come on to rapturous applause, smartly dressed, in suits and ties. Even the drummer keeps his jacket and tie on throughout the evening. Charlie Fink and violinist Tom Hobden are particularly well-turned out, with very nicely coiffed hair! It’s interesting how suits have caught on with many bands, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds springing to mind as a notable example of a besuited band. However, in the case of the Bad Seeds, smart dress conceals malicious intent! Not so with NATW, who seem nice guys and are definitely non-threatening. They seem to attract a wide audience, ranging from teenage girls to people of pensionable age and all types in-between. There are even some families – they seem to be a band everyone can appreciate. Why? Well, they have good tunes and lyrics, they can be folky, but they can rock too. Their repertoire has also become pretty varied in style over their three albums. They are great musicians and they put on a fantastic show.

Noah & The Whale

A bit of a gripe first. NATW play a lot of songs with quiet bits in. Why do people insist on talking right through a gig? Half way though, I went up to the balcony to listen, as downstairs there was a constant background babble, which made it hard to appreciate the music. Also the acoustics seem to be much better upstairs in the Civic.

Noah & The Whale

Tonight’s set takes-in songs from all their three albums, particularly the most recent, Last Night on Earth album. The show kicks-off with three tracks from the new album, starting with Life is Life. The only ‘unknown’ track tonight is a good cover version of John Cale’s Barracuda.

Disappointingly there are least songs from The First Days of Spring, which in my mind is their best album. However, the Last Night tracks are more upbeat and pretty rousing and go down well with the crowd in a largish venue like the Civic. Charlie proves the ideal frontman, standing on a riser at the front of the stage and rousing the audience. At times it becomes a sing-along show and the audience know the songs well.

Noah & The Whale

A lot of thought and preparation has gone into the gig. A highlight is Love of an Orchestra, which features a mass choir and strings. However, there is a quirk! Violinist Tom leaves the stage and he is ‘transported ‘, Star Trek style, into a projected film backdrop, where he is shown seated among the choir and orchestra. Meanwhile the rest of the band perform along with the backing film / sound-track.

Noah & The Whale

However, the real highlight of the night is the encore, the title track of The First Days of Spring. This is pretty stunning. The track builds up from a quiet start and transforms into a real epic, with Tom’s violin playing the real highlight. However, this is a proper band and all the musicians make fantastic contributions, swapping onto different instruments in the process. Commendably, the band just do the one encore song and leave, rather than perform half their set as an encore, as some bands do. Overall a darn good evening’s music and entertainment!

Set List:
Life is life; Just me before we met; Give it all back; Give a little love; Rocks and daggers; Shape of my heart; Blue skies; Old joy; Our window; Wild thing; Love of an orchestra; Tonight’s the kind of night; 5 years time; Barracuda; Jocasta; Waiting for my chance; L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N; (ENCORE) First days of spring.

Photos and Review by John Bentley

Leave a Reply