Noah and The Whale - Live - Brighton Dome 18th October 2011
It's a testament to the growing popularity of Noah and The Whale that tonight's gig is not only a sell out but the audience ranges from screaming teenagers to pensioners who would normally have their feet up in front of Eastenders at this time of night.
Noah and the Whale circa 2011 are a different beast from the finger in the ear twee folk of debut single Five Years Time. From the fuller sound (think Springsteen meets The Killers filtered through the voice of David Byrne)to the adult themes of their newest album Last Night on Earth right through to their sartorial choices, they are keen to show they are big boys now. In fact with their suits, braces and waistcoats the band come out look like a cross between Gordon Gecko and characters from a 80's wedding.
"I bought this tie for £5"
exclaims singer Charlie Fink in a bizarre accent which on record used to sound West Country yet over the years has lost itself somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. The extensive touring they have been doing in the States has had an effect on more than just the music.
It must be awful to constantly be reminded about former girlfriends but I guess you only have yourself to blame if you write a break-up album involving an ex who used to be in your band (Laura Marling) as Fink did on First Days Of Spring.
The first half of the gig contains quite a few tracks off that album such as Love of an Orchestra, the plaintive Blue Skies and the sparse, mournful Our Window. Sample lyric:
"Well it's four in the morning,.
Things are getting heavy,
and we both know that it's over,
but we both are not ready.
Fink describes this as the "romantic" section of the show. I'm no Julio Inglesias but Valentine's Day must be a riot round his house if this bleak definition of romance qualifies. That said, the five-deep throng of enraptured girls in the front row are oblivious to his doomed take on love as they scream like banshees at every break in the music.
Its in the "good time" part of the show that NATW really come into their own and their new direction reaps rewards. They have always had a fine ear for melody but have now put more horsepower behind their tunes.
The fist pumping Tonight’s the Kind of Night could easily be a track off Springsteen's Born To Run with its driving chorus and lyrics of youthful escape.
You don't see enough violin at rock gigs and its nice to see NOAW haven't ditched their folk leanings completely. Tom Hobden's fiddle offers a lovely counterpoint to the synths and drum machines especially on the thumping current single Waiting For A Chance To Come
Five Years Time gets an outing this time shorn of banjo and played with electric guitar it gets the crowd going even though this version, whilst great, lacks the naive charm of the original.
Before they depart for the obligatory encore the crowd is treated to L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, a tale of down and out characters living their lives for the good times. It is ever bit as radio friendly as anything they have ever done without sacrificing their soul. If they had a bit more confidence as performers they could have engineered a pretty monumental sing-along but cut the track short as the crowd get into their stride.
By the time we hear a beautiful version of Old Joy and a bombastic First Days Of Spring the crowd, young and old, leave safe in the knowledge that the night is always darkest just before the dawn...and the dawn can be a wondrous thing.