LIVE REVIEW: Noah and the Whale

6 05 2011

The Ritz, Manchester 03/05/2011

Review by Damion Larkin

I like Noah and The Whale but during this virtuoso display at Manchester’s Ritz, I decide I don’t like their crowd. The five piece don’t set a foot wrong all night: every harmony, hook and holler is flawless. But they’ve attracted seemingly serious types who aren’t interested in letting their hair down. One woman in particular looks so studious it seems like she is in physical pain.

The Noah’s enter the stage with a mixture of delight and professional intent. Violinist Tom Hobden is a joy to behold as he looks so happy you’d think he’d won a competition to play with the band.

Lead singer, Charlie Fink is charismatic, enigmatic and in no way automatic. Although having never seen them before it amuses me greatly that he is the spitting image of ‘Dan’ from Alan Partridge. More immature titillation is had from the observation that lead guitarist and keyboard ace Fred Abbott is the spit of Eric Clapton, while Matt “Urby Whale” Owens on bass could pass for Dougal from the Magic Roundabout. But there is something unique about this band – they make me feel like someone’s mum as I’m impressed by their suits and they seem like smartly turned out nice looking boys – like folky Beatles.

Back to the music, ‘Give A Little Love’ initially seems an odd choice to open with as its pretty mid tempo but it builds and ends with frenzied guitar mash. There’s a lot of stuff from their second album which was written after Fink’s split with Laura Marling. In this vein ‘Blue Sky’ is typical of their output: lo-fi but still somehow quite nippy (although you could only dance to it in a random indie style or if you were an alcoholic hobo).

‘Love Of An Orchestra’ is fun too as the gig picks up pace for the last third. ‘Tonight’s The Kind of Night’ is the next single and I can see why – it’s the closest they’ve come all night to out and out rock. Still as very few people are bopping it’s like being at a librarians conference.

People seem to be enjoying it but there’s little movement of any kind. I’ve seen congregations going for it more than this lot. They show their appreciation at the end of each ditty but they seem clappy not happy. Perhaps they are stupefied because what Noah do isn’t just music, it’s hypnosis.

As the gig never generates any atmosphere, my cohorts and I all agree, the gig ends up with an overall score of seven which is a shame because Noah and the Whale are a clear ten. Noah 10 – Crowd nil.

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