"We're breaking our own rules tonight," admitted Noah and the Whale singer Charlie Fink. "Normally, there are no electric guitars or crash cymbals but as we're in America we thought we'd rock out a little." Of course, "rock out" is a relative term with a band like Noah and the Whale who spend most of their time on the twee side of a genre (folk pop) that's already pretty gentle, what with the harmonium and violin.
This was Noah and the Whale's first NYC show, the same date as the Stateside release of their debut album, and you could tell by the smiles on their faces that they were psyched to be playing here. The feeling was mutual as the Londoners charmed the pants off the crowd who seemed to me more genuine fans than cross-armed industry types. Great show.
Augmented with a horn section, they gave us pretty much the entirety of their debut, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, plus two new songs, one of which ("If We Sold a Million") was from a second album the band recorded in three days, that Fink described as their "punk album" but, again, that's only relative to the band. Many, including me, thought we might get an appearance by Laura Marling, who played the night before at Bowery Ballroom. She sings on their UK hit "Five Years Time" and Fink produced her debut album. But no luck, instead opener Lindi Ortega came out to sing backup.
I was curious to see how "Five Years Time" would go over. One of the catchiest songs of the year, it's so hooky and sunny and whistle-filled that the burnout factor is high, especially when it's also in a Saturn comercial that seems to air constantly. Yet when the opening ukelele hit, everyone perked up and it was definitely one of highlights of the show. Never count out a perfect pop song.
The show ended with a cover of "Girlfriend in a Coma," one of the better Smiths covers I've heard. I shot video:
New York has three more chances to see Noah and the Whale. They also play anti-folk homebass Sidewalk Cafe on Thursday, and then at Virgin Megastore on Saturday afternoon and Mercury Lounge on Saturday night (sold out). And then more U.S. dates:
Sep 18 Sidewalk Cafe (FREE SHOW) New York, NY
Sep 19 Virgin Megastore (12:30pm)
Sep 19 Mercury Lounge New York, NY
Sep 20 Newbury Comics Boston/Norwood, Massachusetts
Sep 20 Toad (FREE SHOW) Boston, MA
Sep 22 The Saint (FREE SHOW) Montreal, Que
Sep 23 Horseshoe Tavern (FREE SHOW) Toronto, ONT
Sep 25 Av-Aerie (ALL AGES) Chicago, IL
Sep 26 Reckless Records (Instore) Chicago, Illinois
Sep 26 Empty Bottle Chicago, IL
Sep 29 Chop Suey (FREE SHOW) Seattle, WA
Sep 30 Doug Fir (FREE SHOW) Portland, OR
Oct 2 Amoeba Music (Instore) San Francisco, California
Oct 2 Pop Scene at 330 Ritch San Francisco, CA
Oct 4 Detour Festival Los Angeles, CA
Oct 6 Spaceland (FREE SHOW) Los Angeles, CA