Noah & The Whale and opener Nikki Lane graced the historic stage of the Neptune Theatre in the University District on Thursday night. The balance of Americana and indie-folk rock made for energetic and indefatigable sets.The majority of the crowd were females in their late teens to early 20’s, favoring skinny jeans and berets with a varietal mix of older couples that hung back at the bar lovingly holding their drinks. The Neptune is much smaller in size compared to the Paramount or Moore, and has an intimate feel to it. Maybe it’s the pulsating blue lighting on the ceiling or the stained-glass depictions of Neptune himself, or perhaps how dashing and stylish the men of Noah & The Whale looked that made the evening so cozy.
Starting the evening off was Nikki Lane and her band, consisting of a male drummer and a female backup vocalist/acoustic guitarist named Carrie. Nikki Lane has the country girl manners of Shelby Earl and the girl-next-door plus indie vibe of Zooey Deschanel. While knowing she was a country singer, there were some pre-conceived notions as to how she’d be as the one and only opener for Noah & The Whale. Nikki Lane did fantastic. If her set were longer she could have easily stolen the show from Noah & The Whale. Between her accent, the giddy laughter and constant smiling in between songs, and how she let her ‘backup’ singer Carrie sing two songs as lead, it was clearly evident that Lane truly loves what she is doing. Her drummer, who she mentioned was a high school friend, had style and class that let him pull off wearing a fedora while drumming along, although he did lose the hat on the last song. This is an artist with her band that truly showcases the pre-breakthrough giddiness.
The phrase “three-course” often brings up images of a fancy and intricate (and typically expensive) meal surrounded by candlelight and soft music; however with Noah & The Whale, “three-course” is how they describe their set. Charlie Fink, lead singer, told the crowd that they divide their set into three sections similar to a three-course meal: the Starters, the Romantics, and lastly, the Good Times. Fink admitted that most of the songs during the Romantics section were not aptly named and “unbelievably miserable” but the songs in their Good Times section were spot-on and got many of the young females in the front dancing. Fink opened “Love of an Orchestra” by saying they will perform “a song that fits these grand walls…” and although the album version has a choral backing and the Neptune would not (safely) fit that many people onstage, the song was just as upbeat with the quick hands of the fiddler Tom Hobden and the clicks of drummer Michael Petulla. The band kicked off the Good Times section with “Tonight’s the Kind of Night,” which has a slight The Killers sound to it mainly due to the monotone vocals and backing keys.
Fink has enormous stage presence with his kicks and slight pelvic thrusts that mirror Elvis Presley. He would get into the rhythm of a song and tilt the microphone stand back and forth to it. Lead singers aren’t the only ones that get to rock out during a song, though: Matt Owens (bassist) was showing people why it is fun to be a guy with long hair in a rock band. It was also quite a sight to witness rock stars (albeit devilishly handsome rock stars) dancing around and jamming out on top of the Oriental rugs that lined the stage floor.
Noah & The Whale provided a charismatic show with lots of flash and lights topped off with talent. They performed fantastic live and stayed pretty true to each song’s recorded version, even on their hit single “5 Years Time.” While Fink was very energetic and engaging, at times it felt forced and gimmicky. Nikki Lane, along with Carrie and their drummer, also put on a phenomenal show – especially for a band that is not as well known.