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Friday, May 27, 2011

Noah and the Whale, Bahamas Charm the Independent

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM

[Editor's note: All Shook Down accidentally sent two writers to the show, but we're posting both reviews, since they're both so good.]

click to enlarge Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale - ROMANA MACHADO
  • Romana Machado
  • Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale

Noah & the Whale
May 26, 2011
@ The Independent

Better than: Standing in front of any other amplifiers south of Lombard Street.

At 8.20, I was attempting some wiseass remark to my photographer about Thursday crowds when the first wave hit the Independent's broad ballroom floor. About a hundred dapper young things made cheerful sounds for Bahamas, who turned out to be two pretty backup singers, a stout sparkplug of a drummer, and one Afie Jurvanen strumming guitar and singing. No shy Melrose cowboy or indie shrinking violet, this Toronto balladeer is clean-limbed, strong of jaw, and quick to flog the sideburns off uppity locals. "That wasn't a very good joke," he deadpanned at some rube's attempted witticism before hailing the guy in the fluffy tiger suit having a drink at the bar. "I think that's good luck," he drawled, and the short set that followed matched the ad hoc invocation. The latest in a long line of Canadian masters of toescuffle Americana, Jurvanen is a little like a young George Jones in the latter's courtlier moments. Bahamas' music is a bracingly minimalist countrypolitan reminiscent of Gene Clark's early songs with the Gosdin Brothers. They wound up the set with a rollicking pass at Bruce Springsteen's "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" stripped to its doo-wop essentials. The applause was long and well-earned.

click to enlarge Bahamas - ROMANA MACHADO
  • Romana Machado
  • Bahamas

The place rapidly filled and the wait was short for the headliners, who filed in wearing rumpled suits and bemused expressions. I'd last seen Noah & the Whale back in 2008 when they were flogging Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, and personnel changes seem to have left these English power folkies with renewed energy. Touring's slapped muscle on their sound and frontman Charlie Fink flaunted much rockstar assurance in his skintight black suit. The ladies pressed forward and the gents hung back, but all dug immensely what two solid years on the U.K. festival circuit can do for close-quarters showmanship. At the conclusion of the announced "romantic" interlude, Fink remarked in confidential tones, "The removal of my jacket shows we've reached the party point of our set." This kicked off a brisk, blistering rush to the finish, whereupon the people let go with a politely vociferous demonstration, which was cut to a tasteful minimum by the headliners' reappearance. Even the explosion of joy at the end of the last encore was perfectly judged at ten to eleven, or more than enough time for one last shout on the night before the weekend.

Noah & the Whale will back on stage at the same spot tonight, bringing down the same glittering sheets of melancholy.

click to enlarge Noah and the Whale - ROMANA MACHADO
  • Romana Machado
  • Noah and the Whale

Overheard: Afie Jurvanen: "We'll try to get the perimeter rockers to join the proletariat up in front of the stage."


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Love of an Orchestra

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The Line

My Door Is Always Open

Wild Thing

Rocks and Daggers

Waiting for My Chance

Shape of My Heart

5 Years Time

Tonight's the Kind

The First Days of Spring


Old Joy



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