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Noah & The Whale

Royal Albert Hall, London, April 16

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From the first time we saw them – four years ago, in a small tent at Cambridge Folk Festival – Noah & The Whale have done nothing but surprise us. But tonight, watching Charlie Fink and the boys lope suavely onto the stage of one of the nation’s most iconic venues doesn’t even seem shocking. You need confidence as well as big songs to fill this daunting architecture, and bands usually need a song or so to settle into it. Not Noah.

As the lights flicker with the palpitating drums at the start of ‘Life Is Life’, the hall is theirs. Charlie jumps casually from monitor to monitor, flashing red socks. Only the wired tension in his limbs as he leans into the microphone gives away how much this means to them. “I guess a venue like this makes for a much more attentive audience, which is a lot more pressured,” he tells us afterwards. “But the great thing about today is that you can feel the crowd getting progressively louder… When you need to work for it a bit, it’s more satisfying.”

Working for it they may be, but they make it look so bloody easy. ‘Give A Little Love’ blooms its heartbreak up to the hall’s acoustic ‘mushrooms’, and the way the guitars twine on ‘Blue Skies’ is just lovely, that gutting line “I don’t think that it’s the end/But I know we can’t keep going” reducing fans to tears in the seats in front of us. The weeping doesn’t let up during a Spiritualized-intense “special Royal Albert Hall” version of ‘Old Joy’. Charlie ambles to the front of the stage, pumping his elbow as the riff from ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’ lands. Then it’s a mass clapalong to ‘5 Years Time’. “You up there and you over there,” cries Charlie. “There’s something you should know... Oh, there’ll be love, love, love...”.

A moment as sunny as this feels even sweeter after the darker shades of their second album, proving that one of the many things that make Noah RAH-ready is their range. They close on a feelgood note, with ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’ and ‘LIFE GOES ON’, before a truly jaw-dropping encore of ‘The First Days Of Spring’, stunning in its emotional power. Next up for the band are the festivals. Will they be playing new stuff there? “Never say never,” grins Charlie. Oh, don’t worry – we know by now to expect nothing and everything where these boys are concerned.

Emily Mackay

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