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ACL Live Shot: Noah & the Whale

More Mumford than Barenaked Ladies and endearingly so

By Michael Toland, 10:08AM, Mon. Oct. 7, 2013

Cute alert! The Whalers at Zilker Park, 10.6.13
Cute alert! The Whalers at Zilker Park, 10.6.13
photo by John Anderson

Though its albums consistently place in the Top 10 in its native UK, Noah & the Whale has yet to make any kind of impact on the American charts or radio. Of course, old-school sources matter little in an Internet world, and a substantial crowd gathered in front of the Honda stage for the band’s Zilker coming-out party on Sunday at ACL Fest.

Though the Twickenham quintet began as a clever indie-folk outfit with connections to the same scene that produced Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling, it’s evolved into a more expansive outfit, with smooth melodies, rich arrangements, and an emphasis on leader Charlie Fink’s engaging songs – sort of a British approximation of American heartland rock.

The band appropriately took the stage with “Tonight’s the Kind of Night,” a song blessed with a sense of possibility and optimism tailor-made for a festival crowd. Indeed, a similar theme pervaded “Waiting for My Chance to Come,” “Give It All Back,” and “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” all of which emphasized triumph over adversity.

It would all be too much if not for a modest sincerity that prevents the Whale’s performances from coming anywhere near over-the-top. The band didn’t always strike gold – the heavily cheered early single “2 Atoms in a Molecule” demonstrated how closely the band escaped being Barenaked Ladies II, while “Give a Little Love” choked on its own sap – but midtempo anthems “Blue Skies,” “Lifetime,” and “5 Years Time” rode the twin virtues of savvy craft and plentiful heart home to Breakthroughville.


For more ACL Fest coverage, see austinchronicle.com/acl. For photo galleries from the fest, see austinchronicle.com/photos.
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