Noah and The Whale :: Wonder Ballroom :: 09.29.2013
by Yume Delegato,posted Oct 1 2013 9:48AM
Although Noah and the Whale's name has decidedly unbiblical origins, I'm sure some Portlanders were thinking of That Guy With The Ark as they slogged through a veritable Deluge to make it to Wonder Ballroom on Sunday night. But record rainfall, high winds and power outages (including blackouts just a stones-throw from Wonder Ballroom) were no match for the Rose City's determined concert-going contingent.
Show opener Barna Howard may have been rocking a Canadian tuxedo for his set at The Wonder, but his brand of simple acoustic folk was straight-up Americana. While we see lots of acts here in Portland that have some sort of country/folk influence, it's rare that you come across one that's pure folk (or pure anything, for that matter). With his John Denver-like vocals and poignant lyrics, this Missouri native turned Portlander definitely delivered the goods as he held the crowd in rapt attention. Sadly, Mr. Howard doesn't have much of an internet presence, yet, but if you ever have a chance to hear him live, songs like "Turns Around The Bottle" and "The Rooster Still Crows" will probably make a believer out of you.
(Noah and The Whale)
Many people may remember Noah and The Whale almost exclusively from their 2011 single, L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N., a collection of depressing urban character studies that sound like a modern update to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (with a touch of The Kinks' "Lola" thrown in). Ironically, while L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. may be the song that American audiences most readily identify the band with, it sounds nothing like the rest of their music. No matter, though, as the London quintet quickly dispelled any misconceptions about their sound during their marathon set on Sunday night.
Noah's lush sonic stylings are hard to categorize, as they combine elements of folk, pop, and classic rock n' roll. The group's five-man lineup also lends great versatility to their sound - not only can violinist Tom Hobden shred on his instrument better than anyone this side of a Charlie Daniels song, but he and guitarist/Eric Clapton-lookalike Fred Abbott trade off on keyboard duties, giving even further range to the band's sonic repertoire.
While their sound may not be for everyone (as evidenced by the not-quite-packed venue), Noah and the Whale drew a respectably-sized crowd of truly zealous fans - nobody seems to like these guys by half-measures, and after watching their set, it's not hard to see why. Not only is the band talented, they perform with an enthusiasm that's infectious. During their 75 minute set, lead singer Charlie Fink joked about going to Powell's and dining by candelight when the famous Portland restaurant they visited lost power, and when a fan screamed out "MARRY ME!" he responded without missing a beat, "Well, we make decisions as a band, so... we'll discuss it." Later on, while leading a giant sing along to "Old Joy," he goaded the audience into singing louder by teasing them about our rivalry with the Emerald City, "You gotta raise it a few DB if you wanna beat Seattle!" (It worked, by the way.)
All in all, Charlie and the boys gave a brilliant performance for of a crowd that couldn't get enough of them, and while their studio work is good, this is definitely one of those bands that you have to see live to get the full experience. Next time they're in town, make sure you check them out!