Words by Alisa Hogg
After releasing his third album Stick Season in October last year, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Noah Kahan finally brought his sold-out show to the O2 Victoria Warehouse, putting on an impressive and tear-jerking performance for 3500 dedicated fans.
Even before Kahan stepped on the stage there was an electric buzz from the crowd, the anticipation of the show felt by each and everyone in the room. The dedication and passion of his fans could be seen with those who waited from the early hours of the morning and from a couple who travelled from the US to see the show. It was clear that Kahan’s show was not one to miss
The opening act for the show was Tiny Habits, an American folk-pop trio. They performed an acoustic set of nine songs, including a cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. Delivering soft wistful harmonies, the group were met with cheering and applause. Though not many seemed to know the band previously, the audience seemed enthusiastic to engage and listen to them.
At 9:10pm exactly, the stage went dark and Kahan’s band came on stage one by one. Throughout the show, the bond between Kahan and his band was evident and helped to elevate the performance.
Kicking off the show with ‘Northern Attitude’, Kahan brought a bit of Vermont to the North of England. The excitement could be felt all around, as people weren’t just singing the lyrics, they were screaming them. The pure joy and passion radiating from the audience was reciprocated by Kahan; the look of content and pride was clear on his face when the crowd finished the lyrics and gave extended applause.
Kahan kept the dialogue between the songs light-hearted, giving a brief comedic relief which cut through the raw and honest sadness and struggle that often forms the lyrical topic of his tracks. Bringing up inside jokes and anecdotes, Kahan introduced himself as Folk Malone and the Jewish Ed Sheeran, then went straight into the next song ‘She Calls Me Back’ – a song he introduced by saying “This song has a phone number in it, don’t fucking call it.”
At one point a fan threw a cowboy hat on stage, which he sported through two songs. Kahan joked with the crowd that it gave him a reason “to fake a southern accent”’ in some of his songs, and even donned the accent at the start of a song.
The album Stick Season marked Kahan’s breakthrough into mainstream music, and the setlist was curated purely from this album and the deluxe version We’ll All Be Here Forever. The topics of personal struggle, longing, pain, and mental health are often addressed, making for a touching and honest hour and a half of listening.
A standout song and moment from the concert was ‘Call Your Mom’. This track evokes a sense of hope, something which isn’t conveyed often in the album, so you can guess how moving this was to hear live. Like many others around me, I was brought to tears by the sincerity and promise expressed, with the chorus being composed of such lyrics as “Don’t let this darkness fool you / all light’s turned off can be turned on / don’t be discouraged / I’ve been exactly where you are / I’ll drive all night / I’ll call your mom.”
Another track titled ‘You’re Gonna Go Far’ was also another highlight. This unassuming track – accompanied by Kahan’s speech about doing things by yourself, moving away or doing something that scares you – conveyed a sense of acceptance and encouragement, and touched on a feeling that every single person in the audience could relate to.
It was a beautiful moment.
There were no costume changes or choreography, but between every song, Kahan switched out instruments. It was clear that the audience was so engrossed, that there was no need for any added features to his performance. It is rare to be able to confidently say this about an artist, but Kahan’s vocals were exactly the same, if not better than the studio-recorded version. His voice was raw and emotional, and with extra adlibs and runs, it was a simply impressive spectacle.
Kahan’s performance in Manchester was one to be remembered, and hopefully, it won’t be long until he returns to perform to an even bigger crowd.
Noah Kahan will be back in the UK touring from 10th to the 15th of February 2024.