Noah and the Whale, Bahamas Charm the Independent

Categories: Last Night

[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.]

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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.

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Romana Machado

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.

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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."

Give A Little Love
Just Me Before We Met
Blue Skies
Give It All Back
Love of an Orchestra
Life Is Life
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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Location Info



The Independent

628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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