Live | Noah and the Whale @ Shepherds Bush Empire

For Folk's Sake Noah and the WhaleThere is a stark contrast between the Noah and the Whale that first started as a young folk-pop ensemble with a love for elegant instrumentation (at the time probably one step too ambitious), and the solid and mature band of nowadays. It has taken a personal and tactical reassessment, years of sweat, a movie, a painful breakup and a full recognition and re-establishment of their own identity to reach their current musical status.

Wearing immaculate suits of the 40s style and jumping on stage after a visual onscreen Q&A teaser that cut off the usual boring chitchat that musicians practice with the audience in-between songs – thank you for acknowledging and dealing with this annoying issue – they kicked off with ‘Life is Life’. Promoting their last album Last Night on Earth, their new sound is harsher, rockier and follows a steadier beat and pace than its introverted yet beautiful predecessor First Days of Spring or the melancholic and sweet Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down.

A female chorus provided backing vocals provided us with a hint of Talking Heads live show dynamics. Regardless of the band’s musical progression, their lyrics seem to stay stable within their topical boundaries and bounce out from an open diary on love, relationships, breakups and routine, presumably from the hand of leader Charlie Fink.

Old tracks from Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down such as “Give A Little Love” were thoughtfully arranged with intertwining guitar riffs and wailing violin, quite an impressive display of skills. Tom, in charge of the strings, left the stage only to reappear onscreen (a quirky and funny multidimensional idea) with a choir ensemble and orchestra musicians for the number ‘Love of an Orchestra’. Suffice to say that this trick not only encouraged the audience to appreciate the ingenuity of the song (with its choppy twists shifting from a raw and choral character to an upbeat and baroque pop) but also Noah’s core principles on using dark humour to overcome hardships, avoid self-pity and introduce a positive outlook on the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Additional proof of this was the final song ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ before the encore. Still dealing with the hurting matter of the heart, this catchy, simple and almost as twinkly as the popular ‘Five Years Time’ track, was delivered with the combined participation of the willing crowd – a proper and clever way of saying goodbye and leaving with an ecstatic buzz of positivity rushing in people’s minds.