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Noah and the Whale – Birmingham, HMV

E-Streeter checks out the London folkers….

Not sure what I was expecting from Noah and the Whale but definitely not the upbeat, lively and convivial atmosphere which made Friday at the incongruous art deco HMV Institute in Birmingham such a joy. On record they are far more melancholy than they are in the flesh, the dapper Charlie Fink’s voice reminiscent of Lloyd Cole’s wobbly (and in my view hugely irritating) stylings.  Fink on record doesn’t go for ‘make you smile and laugh –’ until he gets in front of a crowd, apparently, when he turns into a crowd pleasing old school frontman. Who knew? 

The Noah set is understandably top-heavy with songs from recent breakthrough ‘Last Night on Earth’, and an oddly eclectic crowd gradually warmed up and bobbed along to some watertight harmonies and the solid stagecraft of a band enjoying a well-earned spell in the sun. The magnificent barnets of Messrs Hobden and Fink pay an obvious homage to the Finn Brothers and in combining sharp punchy pop and rock rhythms with exquisite violin playing and a few left-field arrangements, the Noah vibe is definitely evocative of Split Enz.

I stumbled across Noah and the Whale a few years ago on Later with Jools Holland with the quirky ‘Five Years Time’. Tonight this one gets the biggest cheer of the evening and along with highlights Wild Thing, LIFEGOESON and the magnificently brooding closer First Days of Spring, showed that N&TW have more than one song writing club in their bag.

I don’t expect to see them again play a venue as small as this one so get out and see them up close while you can.


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