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By Chris Imlach
Every gawky teen, slightly chubby guy in plaid and geeky-looking-girl-who-is-actually-gorgeous in Glasgow are in Oran Mor to watch Noah & The Whale, or so it seems. The band you either love or hate for getting 5 Years Time stuck in your head last summer are back on the road to promote their second album and accompanying film, both entitled The First Days of Spring.
Opening act Sean Rowe (**) is an average blues-inspired singer songwirter with a voice that veers between Johnny Cash and Edwyn Collins without ever reaching the levels of either of them. Whilst it’s hard to say anything too bad about the New York native, his collection of fairly non-descript songs mean it’s harder to say anything good above ‘alright’
Then Noah & The Whale (***) take to the stage with shy smiles and waves to the audience before starting with the title track from their latest album. For those who have not heard The First Days of Spring it is an album of heartbreak that tends towards the epic - slow rolling drums, gentle echo-laden vocals and soaring strings. However it falls down by focussing on one, singular theme - how miserable lead singer and lyricist Charlie Fink is having being left by ex-girlfriend Laura Marling. Sample lyrics include “And though I love you, and you know that, I no longer know what that’s worth”, “I’ll only let you down, but my door is always open” and “well I have nothing and I have no-one, I’ve been so quickly set free”. Whilst such songs on their own are largely enjoyable taken together they prove a bit too much. And so it is with the live performance. By the end you can’t help but feel Fink needs a slap and a shag.
The high points of the show undoubtedly come when the band play their more positive tunes. As well as obvious crowd-pleaser 5 Years Time, Love Of An Orchestra (the one upbeat song on the new album), Give a Little Love and Shape Of My Heart are the best bits of a set far too heavy on the miserable songs in the bands repetoire. Fink’s onstage presence also lacks impact, possibly due to shyness, but his lack of crowd interaction and dynamism is made up for by a couple of his bandmate, especially fiddle player Tom.
All in all the gig was an anjoyable affair marred by an emphasis on the band’s new material based around a single, already overdone, theme. But when Noah & The Whale unleash the bouncy twee indie-folk of their debut album smiles and tapping feet fill the room and the crowd are reminded why they braved the nippy Glasgow night to be here.