Noah and the Whale

First shooting to fame in 2007 with the ubiquitous classic, ‘Five Years Time’, it seemed Noah and the Whale might be doomed to be one hit wonders. But with a string of critically acclaimed tracks, and the release of their latest album, ‘Last Night On Earth’, they’re proving the critics wrong and showing they’re here to stay.

The Bahamas
The BahamasThe Bahamas

To warm us up, the fittingly named ‘Bahamas’ take to the stage. Frontman Alfie Jurvanen is accompanied by two female backing singers and a drummer. His sound is charming enough, but aside from a small swelling in the crowd, most of the audience seem restless with his meandering songs. Some of the more upbeat tracks are better received, with ‘Whole Wide World’ getting a good reception. A few half-hearted attempts to chat with the audience (telling us, without much conviction, we’re the most attractive crowd in the UK) falls on deaf ears and they thankfully make way for the Noah and the Whale.

Noah and the Whale

NATW bring a whole new level of class to the stage, with probably the smartest roadies in the business, dressed in suits and braces. The band steps out onto the stage to the atmospheric piano solo ‘Paradise Stars’, suited and booted; a sharp look to match their sharp sound.

Noah and the Whale

The audience at the sold out Birmingham Academy is a good mix of die hard fans and fans who’ve been attracted by their recent emergence in the mainstream. There are plenty of girls in the front row shouting ‘I love you’ in the gaps between songs, and kids so young they need to be accompanied by their parents. NATW are a band for all ages though, and everyone is united in their love of the band, and they’re not disappointed by a good variety of songs, including songs from ‘Last Night On Earth’ as well as plenty of classics to keep the loyal fans happy.

Noah and the Whale

NATW have come a long way from their twee folk roots. Perhaps as a result of the confidence that inevitably comes from the kind of fame they’re enjoying at the moment, they’re in their element on stage. In particular, frontman Charlie Fink commands the stage with his effortless charm, smiling and dancing strangely across the stage.

Noah and the Whale

Although it starts off well, the gig seems to wane slightly about halfway though the set. The mood becomes more subdued with a selection of mellow, more touching songs. Fink explains that this is the ‘romantic section’ of the gig; they play a selection of songs from the album ‘First Days Of Spring’, packed with an emotional depth inspired by Fink’s break-up from former bandmate Laura Marling, whose departure left the band without female vocals. The tracks are a far cry from their earlier, more lighthearted songs, and show a darker side of the band. As beautiful as the songs are, the crowd grows restless and begins to chatter above the level of the music.

Noah and the Whale

Things get quickly back on track though with the welcome appearance of the gloriously upbeat ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’ (which gets the longest spell of applause I’ve ever heard mid-set), swiftly followed by the ultimate classic ‘Five Years Time’ which grabs the attention of everyone in the room, and suddenly everyone is singing along and all is forgiven.

Noah and the Whale

The inclusion of old favourite ‘Jocasta’ and new hit ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’ ensures the success of the evening, and the set reaches a peak with the utterly joyful ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’ when it seems everyone in the room is singing along to every word. NATW are cheered back on stage for an encore by the grateful crowd, and they don’t disappoint with renditions of ‘Old Joy’ and the beautiful ‘First Days Of Spring’.

Noah and the Whale

In a gloomy world, NATW are just the kind of band to provide a much needed uplifting evening, and fans new and old spill out onto the streets with songs and smiles on their lips. They’ve come a long way since they first shot to fame, and they seem to be shedding their folk status and moving towards a more mature sound. I’m sure they’ll still be pleasing crowds with their evolving sound in five years time.

Noah and the Whale Review and Photography by Helen Williams

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