Review : Noah and the Whale (Leadmill, Sheffield)

5 days of madness (or, a round of applause for your friend from Brighton)

(Editorial note: we only allow him this self-indulging rant because of what happened to him last saturday).

Day one: Noah and the Whale sing about your broken heart.


A quick personal opinion

What makes a twee/indie band relevant these years? It feels everyone now makes catchy songs with strange, quirky lyrics and equally amusing videos, waiting to hit it big not only by musical skills, but simply by being strange.

Now, most bands can be relegated to “flavour of the month” once this fad goes (and believe you me, it will go away), so it is primordial to “renovate or die” (or so says the cliché).

And so did NATW with their amazing second album. Anyways…


My door is always open”

Twas another Wednesday night, the first on a string of five nights of gigs my two lovely editors organised for me and Sean Rowe had the hard task of calming a high number of bearded and skinny guys (and girls with strange hair choices).

Sean Rowe


Sean Rowe is like a lot of troubadours out there. Only, not. He sports a few interesting tattoos and although it’s not the best thing I ever seen live, he was entertaining enough and was chatty with the public. It’s something you gotta respect. And I suspect Tom Waits imprinted some of his DNA on him.

A quick 20 minute pause passed and it was time for the band that recently saw the dark side of Manchester appear.


For a moment, I really thought Charlie Fink (lead vocals/broken heart) looks like the Apostle of Hustle. A Google image search later would prove me wrong, but for the remainder of the night, I thought about the time I saw Apostle and Hustle and almost died. I guess because I was feeling as depressed.


Anyways, the same atmosphere of dread and longing, the stark reality of being heartbroken that is so evident in their second album could be felt on their live performance. Perhaps even more, as you have them, with lyrics that felt stolen from a diary, exposing their feelings on stage.


Just like Queen Victoria wore black for the rest of her life (in remembrance of Albert), so does everyone at Noah and the Whale keep the spirit of being broken hearted. “This is a song for anyone who’s had their heartbroken”, denounces ‘Blue skies‘, sending chills down my spine. A single stream of tears forms, fueled by too many buried memories that come back to life.


Obviously, the moment where I clearly lose it is ‘My door is always open‘, the dirge like weepy number that ends the album and the second to last song of the night. Heck, I think NaTW have their equivalent of ‘Bloodflowers‘ with the creepy, atmospheric ending sported by ‘First Days of spring‘ (the song), as it is that cathartic admission that you need when you are down and out on your love/luck. Cry a river for those memories of long lost loves. Hope for a better tomorrow…


But, hey, not all was gloom. ‘For the love of an orchestra‘, that Andrew Lloyd Webber–like number is as uplilfting live as much as a needed happy break on “First days of Spring”. Heck, even ‘Five Years Time‘, a cross of tweeness that they bear, is much better live, perhaps being less of a dumb song and more of a statement. As a good friend told me, it’s a song about how uncertain life is.


And that’s our only certainty in life. How uncertain it all is. Which as certain as saying that the sparse electronic ambiences from their recordings are there (ebow and irish fiddle ftw!), clashing with the intimate acoustic and sombre flavour of the lyrics.


A massively emotional night. And hey, they played ‘Mary’, just for us obsessive fans.


Best tracks live:Blue Skies,Two bodies, one heart, My door is always open, Mary, The first days of Spring.


If this concert was a David Bowie song it would be: Scary scenesters (and superhipsters).



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