Noah And The Whale - Palace Theatre, London
For a band that has otherwise gone quietly about their business, Noah And The Whale’s ‘A Month of Sundays’ tour at the Palace Theatre (usually host to Singing' In The Rain) was a decidedly showy move. Eschewing a traditional gig structure, the nights have seen the folk rockers deliver two sets – one stripped back (but not acoustic) and one full set – with a screening of a short film, Heart Of Nowhere, sandwiched in between. And while the band’s live sets rarely dabble in the theatrical, tonight's climactic performance suggests that as showy moves go, it was about as savvy as they come.
Why, you may ask? Predominantly, it’s down to the fact that we’re not used to Noah And The Whale being such fun, as or playful. Maybe it was the unique setting or maybe just the confidence of having four albums behind them, but there are moments of levity not usually associated with the band. From Charlie Fink’s seeming transformation into a stand-up comedian (treading that oh-so-English line in self-deprecation) to the duelling guitars in ‘Still, After All These Years’ and the Daft Punk cover that closed the night, the overall performance oozed confidence and joy, alongside the exemplary musicianship we’ve come to expect.
In truth, the setting is both a blessing and a curse. While it gave the band full reign to let loose during the likes of ‘Give It All Back’ (the climax seeing the band shred riffs that wouldn’t seem out of place at We Will Rock You down the road), it gave the second full set an odd atmosphere with songs received rapturously without the additional oomph to get people out of their seats. It takes until the climactic combo of ‘Five Years Time’ and ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ - preceded by a prompt from Fink that it’s a “seating optional” venue - to get the full response, transforming the end of the set into more of a gig than just a performance. Still, this doesn’t affect the first six-song stripped back segment which consistently sounds gorgeously full in the elaborate surroundings, and is a perfect fit with an all-seated crowd.
While the short film itself may have had a mixed response (for us, we rather liked its teenage dystopian sci-fi blend with a suitably downbeat ending), the night as a whole is an undoubted success despite the minor quibbles. A lack of first album slices is disappointing, but is easily countered with the Anna Calvi cameo on ‘Heart Of Nowhere’ and the unique structure of the night.
Perhaps it’s all a stepping stone to a full-blown musical in lieu of a fifth album? We know we’d be front and centre for that.
HEART OF NOWHERE (w/ Anna Calvi)
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT
GIVE IT ALL BACK
WAITING FOR MY CHANCE…
NOW IS EXACTLY THE TIME
LOVE OF AN ORCHESTRA
SILVER AND GOLD
STILL AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
FIVE YEARS TIME
THERE WILL COME A TIME
DIGITAL LOVE (Daft Punk cover)