As it happens on the Tuesday at SXSW, Thursday at Sound City could be said to be the ‘ease-in’ day of the 3-day festival, with less mental scheduling across Liverpool. Admittedly, I took the easy route compared to John and Martin, as you will read below. Howeveer, before we tried to do anything, we had TGTF tapas and drinks powwow, which ended up being pretty cool, as Reverend and the Makers were assembled at the next table over, and Jon McClure, having recognised me from SXSW, came over to say hello and give me a hug, after which I introduced him to John and Martin, John being a bit starstruck having seen the Rev and co. play at Guernsey Live years ago. I often say that SXSW is one of the best places I go to where I am bound to run into people I know, but when I’m in Britain for things like this, the probability quotient goes way up!
The TGTF crew then separated for the start of the festival evening. My first port of call was the Anglican Cathedral, a venue I’d not been able to visit last year for Sound City 2012. My first band of this year’s festival was the Wirral’s By the Sea. I was sort of expecting another MGMT retread with a band with a synthesiser, but what I got instead was more of a softer Bombay Bicycle Club with not so obvious keyboards. As a local band, it was great to see they had lads of local support. Maybe all they need is a little more oomph, more stage presence? Watch live video of the band performing fab single ‘Eveline’ below.
Noah and the Whale do not come over to America very often, or DC for that matter. So while to many of you it may seem odd that with TGTF’s indie-centric roots, we would pay attention to a band like theirs, who have already made great strides here in Britain, being part of the ‘folk pop is more mainstream’ movement. But they’re such a live rarity to me, I couldn’t not go. I’ve given some reviews of the festival a cursory glance, and several seem to make great pains to emphasise that they all expected this show in a church to be an acoustic one. Why would you ever think that? Have you ever seen this band live? Or recently? While the requisite Oriental rugs were wheeled and rolled out ontage, this was like any other Noah and the Whale gig I’ve been to. (All of two. I know. Depressing, isn’t it?) Rocking and full of life. (Granted, they did have a four piece, all-female string section that made a couple appearances in their set. But still. Come on!)
This portion of the show was prefaced by the cathedral’s own very jolly vicar coming out and saying a few words to the audience, starting with the mere fact that we should have expected a sermon, having come into a place of worship. He was quick to point out Noah and the whale pictured in the church’s stained glass windows (no surprise there, obviously), stating that it was as if the cathedral had been built and had been waiting for this moment for a long time. The vicar also didn’t miss a beat when a punter shouted, “religion sucks!”, to which he responded with a smile, “thank you!” (Snort.) Then the show was underway. As a nearby punter astutely pointed out, primary songwriter Charlie Fink seems to have a continuing preoccupation with the passage of time (see new song titles ‘Lifetime’ and ‘Now is Exactly the Time’, plus new single ‘There Will Come a Time’) and I’ve wondered if he’s still carrying a torch for former famous flame Laura Marling, as there are definitely wistful, nostalgic moments in their just released new album ‘Heart of Nowhere’ (reviewed here by Carrie).
It’s tough selling a new album that most everyone hasn’t heard (well, I guess, unless you’re a cheeky / cheap pirate), so it’s no surprise songs from ‘Last Night on Earth’ (my favourite album of 2011) like ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ and ‘Give It All Back’ along with perpetual crowd pleaser ‘5 Years’ Time'(turning into the evening’s loudest singalong) went over the best of all. Still, Noah and the Whale proved that they’re a fun band live and they can bring in loads of people to a venue, it’s just that fans will have to heard ‘Heart of Nowhere’ a couple times properly before they’ll get the right kind of crowd reaction they deserve. Watch ‘Blue Skies’ from ‘First Days of Spring’ and ‘Waiting for My Chance to Come’ from ‘Last Day on Earth’ below.
Noah and the Whale Set List:
Give a Little Love
Tonight’s the Kind of Night
Heart of Nowhere
Waiting for My Chance to Come
Give It All Back
There Will Come a Time
All Through the Night
Love of an Orchestra
Now is Exactly the Time
5 Years’ Time
First Days of Spring
From the Anglican Cathedral, John and I left and moved swiftly eastward, following what looked like a mass exodus towards…the Zanzibar. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have bothered, but I thought, when in Liverpool, what the heck. Let’s see if we can blag our way in with our press passes. Who were we trying to see? The 1975, of course. Unfortunately, and as I had rightly predicted earlier in the day, the place was way too small for the crush of people who were trying to get in and as a result, well before we arrived, the Zanzibar was entirely rammed. There was a massive queue outside and even Martin couldn’t get in to see the band prior, Swim Deep. It was now one in, one out, and there was no chance in hell we were getting in. Luckily though, I had a contingency plan, and John and I headed to Wolstenholme Square.
As we approached the Arts Academy, I could have sworn it was a very loud PA system blaring a song that I recalled hearing on Lammo’s drivetime show on 6music. As we stood outside on the cobblestones, I noted it was so loud and distinct, I was sure it was a recording. Hmm, that’s sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Haha. It turned out we had arrived just in time for the end of Manchester’s Findlay wrapping up her set with the soulful words of ‘Your Sister’.
No, I wasn’t there for her. I had purposely brought John over to sell him further on the Reverend and the Makers’ live set. Having seen them at this year’s SXSW and been absolutely bowled over by the performance, I was positive this would be the set that would make us forget that we ever considered trying to get into the 1975 gig. And funnily enough, Jon McClure hilariously alluded to that other show happening at the same time, with comments that can’t be reprinted in a family newspaper. No matter. Everyone who was in the Arts Academy for the Rev was in good spirits, most probably hopped up on too much alcohol and was in the mood to party. Those of you who have met me know I’m small and that’s why I always queue early for gigs because I actually want to see the stage! So we started out down the front but an overexcited Liverpudlian bloke in a military jacket pushed me from the barrier and proceeded to slam his arm into my head so many times, I backed off from the barrier. Moshing was the order of the night and I was so thankful John, who towers over most other men and can puff himself up to tell others to back off, had my back. Thanks, John!
I was struck by how different this show in the UK was to the ones I saw at SXSW; totally mental, with the punters eating up every quip of McClure’s, such as how if he ever left Sheffield, he’d move to Liverpool in an instant. And would they have him? Did he even need to ask? ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ fit perfectly alongside newer ‘The Wrestler’, and Also very funny was when McClure tried to do a tender version of ‘Sex with the Ex’, with just guitarist Ed Cosens accompanying him, were all the girls and boys yelling at him. The boys just wanted to egg him on; the girls wanted desperately for him to follow them on Twitter. (Oh, social media…) It capped off a nearly perfect evening, and the first in a 3-week holiday for me.