Live Review

Noah And The Whale, Deaf Institute, Manchester

Great musicianship and charming banter.

‘Take your pants off, Charlie!’

‘What will I do in the encore then?’

You don’t have to be a hot-blooded female to enjoy the Noah And The Whale gig at Manchester’s Deaf Institute, but it’s certainly a bonus. The London-based folk band - best known for its ukuleles and whistles - begin the show with ‘Blue Skies’ from ‘The First Days Of Spring’, the album said to be inspired by the end of Fink’s relationship with Laura Marling, to a cry of unabashed attention baying for the singer / songwriter flesh that lies beneath Charlie’s dapper suit. The song is a subtle but rousing opener and the perfect stepping stone for the band kicking it into ‘celebratory’ gear with ‘Tonight’s The Kind of Night’ from new album ‘Last Night On Earth’ - with its echoes of ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ - and ‘Give It All Back’, whose riff sounds like a Little Mermaid-style ringtone. Unintentionally, Fink then adopts anecdotal mode and tells us ‘we’re all heading to the Manchester ‘Aquatic Centre’ after the show, as he never got the chance to visit it back when he lived in the city.’ It’s the first of many examples where he reaches out to the crowd as a segue between songs.

Other new album tracks follow - ‘Life Is Life’, ‘Just Before We Met’ and ‘The Line’ - with the band embracing more Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Steve Miller Band-style choruses than nu-folk, particularly on ‘Life Is Life’, but the violin is never too far out of the fold and adds an extra layer that keeps the pop rock sound from going too drivetime. The tone dramatically shifts to soft and tender with a double-helping of heartbreak on tracks like ‘I Have Nothing’ and ‘My Door Is Always Open’, which perfectly suits the intimate setting and bird wallpapered stage of the Deaf Institute. In creeps another song of this ilk, the delicately pining ‘Wild Thing’, before Fink swaps guitars for the umteenth time (who knew Noah played this many guitars? And all different colours and sizes!) for what he calls the ‘party set’, which includes ‘Rocks and Daggers’, the Mexican flavoured part-strum of ‘Shape of My Heart’ and the upbeat ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’, which is like Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ for the ambitious youth down the ‘King’s Road’. The set closes with a stirring ‘The First Days of Spring’, where violinist Tom Hobden shines with some serious string ripping riffage in the dawn-breaking crescendo that brings the crashing drums to a heart-racing climax before the band flee the stage.

The ever predicable encore includes two songs (‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’ and an electric version of ‘Five Years Time’) that most people had probably been waiting to hear the entire evening, but whose presence had almost become a distant memory thanks to the ever-changing mood, singable choruses, live energy, great musicianship and charming banter on parade tonight. If this was our Last Gig on Earth, we could be cool with it. But Noah’s sake, we hope it isn’t.

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