Somewhere amidst a spate of big top festival appearances this summer, Noah And The Whale have scrubbed up and got suited and booted for a gig at the delectable outdoor central courtyard at Somerset House. The crowd sip their Pimms and wait the entire length of a full orchestral version of Bohemian Rhapsody at full volume before the band take to the stage with some fanfare, to the opening few bars of Michael Jackson‘s Black Or White.
The two songs are an interesting juxtaposition but this is Noah And The Whale, a band at who at once claim to be influenced as much by folk as they do by punk rock. While their back catalogue suggests that they lean distinctively towards to former they are nonetheless hard to categorise stylistically.
The first half of the set is heavy on material from the navel-gazing breakup album The First Days Of Spring, but the mood lightens somewhat as seagulls fly overhead, the pink-lit walls of the surrounding building offset the darkening blue sky above, and Give Me The Love Of An Orchestra gets the summer loving, flip-flopped good-timers dancing. Charlie Fink is still keen on putting his broken heart on his sleeve, but is keenly aware that the band have other moods. Once the sun goes down he proudly declares that now they will start to play songs everyone can dance to.
So begins the foot-stomping rendition of The Sun Always Shines which winds it way in to a country music hoedown finale. They close out an hour-long first set with The First Day Of Spring, changing the mood from gleeful abandon to a more introspective appreciation of emotions, all to much applause. Beset by the time constrictions of such a venue, the span between the end of the set and the well trodden faux encore is barely a moment before they are back on stage, and My Door Is Always Open gets the crowd swaying.
Fink proclaims the final two songs of the night to be one old one, and one new one. Naturally the old is represented, and received enthusiastically, by 5 Years’ Time. It has been almost a year since the last album so it is mildly surprising not to hear any new material up to this point. This time of year, having a dedicated fan base making up the bulk of the crowd rather than a mass of festival passers-by is a luxury for a touring band, and would seem the perfect platform to test new material. Yet the band have limited themselves to just a last flourish of what might be expected from a forthcoming third outing.
The new song L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N., while not exactly a change in direction, is certainly a more optimistic sound than the excessively introspective tunes of late. The chorus is perfunctory but catchy and the radio friendly tune has a Tom Petty Americana to it.
The gig is short but very sweet and tight. Everyone on stage from backing singers through horn section to Fink sound great and the cool breeze swirling within the picturesque courtyard makes for a beautiful summer evening.