The Deaf Institute
“Tonight’s the kind of night, where anything could change”, sings lead vocalist Charlie Fink, opening the set with the anthemic ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’. This lyric could well set the tone for the gig. Fresh off supporting American indie pop act Vampire Weekend at arena shows, the last place you’d expect to find Noah and the Whale is at a quietly announced, blink-and-you-might-miss-it gig. Before the first song, Fink holds up a paper plate on which six songs are written. “This is our set list”, he explains. A band this well known in the indie scene could pretty much get away with anything playing a free gig at such a small venue, so perhaps six songs is to be expected. However, Fink elaborates; clarifying that after these six songs the rest of the gig will consist entirely of requests. The band has been practicing their old material, making sure they know every word and chord to every song, indicative of their commitment to both the music and their fan base. This is indeed tested as mingled with popular ballads such as ‘Blue Skies’, fans call out more obscure choices as well. Even when Fink fumbles the words to the first verse of ‘2 Atoms in a Molecule’ from the band’s first album it’s endearing.
Despite the band’s smart attire (“I’m a bit dressed down tonight”, cracks violinist Tom Hogden in reference to his blazer-less shirt), the atmosphere is one of intimacy and warmth. Apart from an announcement on social media the day before and a freshly printed flier on the door of the Deaf Institute, there was no hype surrounding the London-based band’s performance at the venue. As the gig ends with an encore of ‘Life is Life’, even long-term fans of the band have a sense of new appreciation- and this is what live music should be all about.