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Noah and the Whale – Glasgow Arches

Glasgow’s Arches is a venue more to be admired than loved normally. Visually stunning, it plays host to art installations and dance nights mostly, though over the past couple of years it has moved towards a more rock-ist bent. It has never mastered the acoustics of guitar music though, and in the dozen or so gigs I have attended here, the record for ‘sound man realising what needs done and doing it’ was 6 songs (Josh Rouse, if anyone is interested.) Other faux pas include not being able to take a drink bought in the bar round to the next arch where the stage is. For no reason. Yep, the Arches has developed a bit of a local reputation for being a bit clueless when outside its comfort zone.

Add to this the fact that is a truly abonimable night in the city – the unholy trinity of being wet, cold and windy – then London folk-rockers Noah and the Whale are up agianst it. Basically, having braved both the venue and the awful nature of travelling to it, the crowd aren’t so much expectant as demanding.

Support comes from Broken records, a local band best described as Brandon Flowers fronting an Arcade Fire B-Sides tribute band. That’s not meant as an insult – there aren’t many who can make music like AF’s best stuff – and they make a reasonably pleasing racket. However, there are influences and then there is derivative, and they fall into the latter. Certainly a band who could do with escaping the shadow of the acts they admire and whacking some of their own personality into the picture.

So to the main act. Their debut album has done pretty well, propelled by the success of radio-friendly hit ‘5 Years Time’. However, it suffers from a slight case of overproduction which, pleasingly, is completely eradicated live. they are a bit shambolic, a bit ramshackle but in a wonderful, laid back fashion. Folk music should always seem a bit flung together; it reflects us better that way.

‘2 Atoms in a Molecule’ jauntily announces its presence, and a lovely little thing it is too. ‘Give A Little Love’ is simply beautiful, all squeezebox and fiddle and it actually achieves genuine haunting status. ‘Shape of My heart’ is rambunctious and rollicking and the crowd respond accordingly. NATW are a very likable bunch and getting swept up in the fun they are having is easy.

But it would be remiss not to point out that the crowd, though appreciative of the set as a whole, are here for one song in particular. the band are already showing signs of being a bit fed-up with it, but they deliver a decent version which allows the crowd to sing and bounce along somewhat manically. It’s the old dilemma – if you have one song which overshadows the rest do you resent it or simply appreciate that you have written a song so many people love? I’m not sure NATW have made their minds up about that yet.

But a great gig performed by nice people that makes people glad they’ve braved the evening. NATW were up against it here, and it is a testament to them that they’ve pulled it off.


10 Responses

  1. I would be lukewarm at best towards these guys. Both Canada and the northern United States are pumping out much better alt folk bands by the barrelful…

  2. I like them. They are unpretentious and they have delivered a good album. Not their fault they get airplay and others don’t.

  3. The Arches can be both a great venue, and a terrible one. A few of my favourite gigs have been there: Rocket From The Crypt (featuring a fire-breathing Speedo, something he’d be unlikely to be allowed to do at King Tut’s), The Blackbyrds, and an embarrasingly empty Hamell On Trial gig.

    I’ve also seen Placebo there, so it’s not all good.

  4. Mostly had bad experiences sound wise, with the Josh Rouse gig mentioned being a real low: sh*** sound for that level of venue, awful. Best was Low when they palyed in the other Arch and the stage was side on…sounded wonderful.

    As for the band no idea but the single was unmemorable.

  5. #4 – why talk about a band you dont know anything about then?

    they are a great band

  6. I like them – they write lovely songs with squeeze box in them. Five year’s time was the ubiquitous song of summer 2008, if you listen to popular radio.

    The arches sound has been up and down for me – Josh Rouse was awful, but Brendan Benson was pretty good, and the sound for Telelvision was not too shabby either. Each gig had a different set up in a different Arch. Maybe they are finally getting their act together, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t?

  7. I think NATW are a charming band live and I like about half the songs on the album, the rest being a bit uninspired in my humble opinion. 5 years is a fabulous little song, but is a bit on a league of its own compared to their other material.

    As far as the Arches debate is concerned, I’ve read the comments with interest. I’ve only been to 2 gigs there and I don’t mind it. It’s far from being my fav glasgow venue but then we are spoilt for choice now. I’m going to a gig in the PrintWorks soon so it will be interesting to see what that is like as well.

    and with that I will remove the piece of fence from my arse and go and get on with some work

  8. You go on your own experiences. Maybe if I’d seen RFTC I could have forgave it (ONAROPEONAROPGOTMEHANGINGONAROPE!)

    God, I miss them!

    But yeah, my time in Glasgow, shithole.

  9. Best venue = ABC2.

  10. ABC2 gets my vote too.

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