The time has come for Noah and the Whale. Their new album, Last Night on Earth, has received huge amounts of press coverage and air play and they have a run of sold out intimate shows across the UK. Now it is our turn!
The wonderful Deaf Institute plays host to the London based boys. What better partnership of music and music hall is there? With its lovely vintage feel, anticipation builds for the headline act. And the room is already straining with bodies as the support for this evening, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, graces the stage. He arrived with such little announcement or grandeur that he could easily have been an over adventurous tech guy! But it quickly became apparent that this was the first act, as he started to play something beautiful. With quiet confidence about his self-taught talent, Leftwich proceeded to showcase his remarkable voice and gentle guitar notes. Even when he went ‘off mic’, his performance was flawless.
During the break, the audience had just enough time to wipe away the stray tear induced by the support act and battle their way for a quick drink before the headliners arrived. That is, if you were one of the lucky few that actually made it into the venue. By the time Noah and the Whale, complete with three piece suits and shiny shoes, had made an appearance, the winding staircase into the music hall was still lined with ticketed music fans waiting to get in. It later became apparent that tonight’s gig had actually been oversold, and the room was already fit to bursting! The lesson here: get to a gig early!
From the beginning, the night felt like a conscious effort to show the band’s progression and maturity. Even the opener, ‘Blue Skies’, felt like a departure from the old and a media aware step into the new, with its use of carefully considered lighting to reflect the sombre nature of the track, a theme which was followed throughout the whole gig. Even in such an intimate space, the technical setup had all the impact of a stadium gig, complete with awe inspiring use of a glitter ball during ‘The First Days of Spring’ and a guitar change for lead singer Charlie Fink after EVERY song. The progression is obvious, and clearly chartable through the tone changes between tracks from their back catalogue. ‘Shape of my Heart’ is put up against ‘Love of an Orchestra’ which itself is carefully placed beside ‘Wild Thing’. It is a wonderful sight to see a band so content playing brand new material next to old favourites; new drummer Michael Petulla had a beaming smile through the whole night, it was hard not to find this so infectious!
Tonight definitely showed one thing: Charlie Fink is a story teller. He documents the grand and the minutiae in one easy move, trawling the depths of emotion to create verbal pictures in front of beautiful music. The most effective use of this is when he performs songs from the second album, The First Days of Spring, cited as a concept album inspired by a break up close to Fink’s heart. The pain of losing love and finding lost hope is poured into these few tracks, emotion filled and honest. It takes a certain character to utilise such brutal pain in a cripplingly honest performance for thousands, nay millions, of people to scrutinise. Judging by tonight’s performance, the pain is still there, but he has certainly found his solace.
As the night winds up, with the perfect ending of the positive ‘5 Years Time’, I am left with a feeling of awe. That one band can create such a rounded sound within such distinctive styles, yet still maintain their sense of self. And, as the crowd bob and sway in time, complimenting each track with choral like harmonies, it is clear that the feeling is definitely shared.
WORDS & PHOTO by Heather Berry