Noah And The Whale - KOKO, Camden
If you want to blame anyone for the recent folk revival in the UK music industry, blame Noah And The Whale. The gargantuan success of their breakout hit ‘5 Years Time’ in 2008 gave the public a hankering for folk that led to the emergence of the likes of Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons into the mainstream, culminating in the latter two’s somewhat surprising recent BRITs wins. A downbeat, but no less brilliant, second album meant that Noah And The Whale took a back seat for a while but with their release of their third album, Last Night On Earth, a mere few weeks away, tonight was a chance to show that they aren’t ready to be passengers for much longer.
Opening with a double whammy of shiny new tracks, ‘Life Is Life’ and ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’, signalled the band’s intent from the get-go. Tonight wasn’t going to be a set peppered with new ones alongside old favourites; it was going to be a new set lightly seasoned with old favourites. It’s a move that certainly meant that the crowd wasn’t as involved as they would have been – arguably the only time they burst into life was with the sublime finale of ‘5 Years Time’ and ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’ – but the quality of the new tracks meant that it wasn’t a dull gig by any means. This was helped by the fact that the new album is a definite move from the melancholy of The First Days Of Spring back to the sprightly folk of their debut, resulting in upbeat folk rock efforts like ‘Give It All Back’ and the joyously perky vibes of ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’.
Fortunately the vast difference in tone of the band’s back catalogue didn't affect the cohesiveness of the set either with the band getting the balance perfect. Early in the set, the sombre ‘Blue Skies’ closely followed by the soaring ‘Give A Little Love’ served as a blueprint for a light/dark balance that permeates throughout the set; even when they perform a stunning melancholic double bill of ‘I Have Nothing’ and ‘My Door Is Always Open’ towards the end, ‘Rocks And Daggers’ is along shortly to perk everyone up with its glorious folk rock breakdown outro.
This balance works mainly because the band are flawless musically; from the note-perfect vocal harmonies to the slow burning build up of instruments during the likes of ‘The First Days Of Spring’, there’s not a mistake to be found which is fortunate as they’re not the liveliest band around. Charlie Fink is possibly music's politest front man but it’s certainly all about the music rather than putting on a ‘show’, a point he alludes to himself during tonight's set. However when the music is as enjoyable and gorgeously crafted as Noah And The Whale’s is, no one would want to sacrifice a song in order to just hear how Charlie’s day was going.
As statements of intent go, tonight’s set certainly raised the expectations high for their forthcoming album. It’s shaping up to be a more accessible album than The First Days Of Spring and more in line with their debut’s style of making dark subjects into light folk numbers. Whether that will prove to be a successful move on Noah And The Whale’s part will soon be found out, but on the evidence of tonight, a lot would have had to go wrong in the recording process for it not be a sheer joy to listen to.
LIFE IS LIFE
TONIGHT'S THE KIND OF NIGHT
GIVE A LITTLE LOVE
GIVE IT ALL BACK
JUST ME BEFORE WE MET
LOVE OF AN ORCHESTRA
I HAVE NOTHING
MY DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN
ROCKS AND DAGGERS
WAITING FOR MY CHANCE TO COME
THE FIRST DAYS OF SPRING
5 YEARS TIME