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Noah and the Whale
Live review...
Noah and The Whale, Johnny Flynn
The Openhouse Festival's tent in Custom House Square, complete with roof of twinkly lights, is the venue for this evening of indie folk.

And first up - Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit. Very affable, sweet English indie folk, with a strong trace of tradition about it. Nothing at all bad about that, but nothing entirely remarkable either. That's not to say they aren't enjoyable, and they certainly do a good job of pleasing the crowd, but they aren't exactly setting the world alight either. But, a perfectly decent support set by all means.

It's when Noah and the Whale take to the stage that we really see how regular the support band were. Their sound is a little more vigorous and electric than one might expect - more energy and less shoegazing than their albums would suggest.

The majority of the set comes, as one would expect, from their second album The First Days of Spring. An exploration of heartache, loss and longing, the atmosphere and tone of the album is not lost in the live set - Our Window being a perfect example of such. It's not all downbeat introspection, though - Love of an Orchestra soon gets people moving, and while it does miss something without the full choral harmonies, it's still as kinetic and joyful as you could wish for.

5 Years Time, the song everyone is waiting for, is (obviously) performed without Laura Marling's harmonies and at first it's a little odd without them. Not bad-odd, though. It sounds a little less pop, a little more folk. It even, for a brief moment, starts to sound a little Vampire Weekend-ish towards the end. No bad thing indeed.

It's at this point that the set really comes to life. Tom Hobden's violin playing gets as crazily rock 'n' roll as you could ask for, Rocks and Daggers looks like being the standout of the set, until immediately followed by The First Days of Spring which gives it a damn good run for its money. They come back for the encore with a rousing, galloping - indeed, almost banging - version of Jocasta. Yes, banging. Well, as much as you can expect for a folk outfit anyway.

They close the set with My Broken Heart, which ends with a rather astonishing jam which includes the use of electric toothbrushes on guitars, which leaves everyone a tad lost for words. In a good way, though.

Noah and the Whale aren't exactly reinventing the wheel here. But they are touchingly good at what they do.

Orla Graham

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Gig Details
Venue: Custom House Square
Location: Belfast
Date: 23/9/2009

Related Links
+ Noah and the Whale - BBC Artist page
+ Johnny Flynn - BBC Artist page