noahandwhale2.jpg
Dave Lake
Noah and the Whale

Thursday, Nov. 17

Neptune

Noah and the Whale take their name from a favorite director (Noah Baumbach) and a

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Noah and the Whale Serve Up Romance, Good Times and More, Last Night at the Neptune

noahandwhale2.jpg
Dave Lake
Noah and the Whale

Thursday, Nov. 17

Neptune

Noah and the Whale take their name from a favorite director (Noah Baumbach) and a favorite film of his (The Squid and the Whale), which seems important given the substance and sound of their latest LP. Whereas 2009's First Days of Spring was a folky, melancholy breakup record chronicling the dissolution of singer Charlie Fink's relationship with a former band member, 2011's Last Night on Earth is a rebirth, the way the lead character in a Baumbach film might emerge from the third-reel folk-pop montage as a renewed and better person.

Looking dapper in a three-piece suit on Thursday night at the Neptune, Fink showed off not just an excellent wardrobe, but a joyfulness, which was most evident in the material from Night on Earth. As Noah and the Whale have evolved their retro synth-pop sound, they move further away from the London folk scene that spawned them, while also becoming a more engaging live act with a broader spectrum of material to draw upon.

The band seemed to be in the deep groove of tour Thursday, having just come off a European jaunt and appearing well rehearsed for the West Coast. Transitions were smooth, banter down pat. "May I say," Fink offered, in his upper-class British accent, "It is a great pleasure to be back in Seattle." Fink told the crowd that the band liked to divide their show into three parts: the starters, which had just concluded, the romance and the good times. But that was quickly amended. "Ah, that's a sham," he said, one-song later, during the romantic portion of the evening. "This next one's unbelievably miserable," he confessed, as the opening chords of "Our Window" began. "It's just an easier sell to call it romantic."

The set reached its crescendo during the good times section, with Fink showcasing his knack for creating vivid characters--and big pop hooks-- like on "Tonight's the Night," about a "boy with his head pressed up to the window of a bus headed out of town." And the fairer sex too, on "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.," which offers one of the best opening lines of 2011: "Lisa likes brandy and the way it hits her lips / She's a rock 'n' roll survivor with pendulum hips."

Though their performance lacked spontaneity, the band served up a well-executed recreation of their records, with Tom Hobden's effects-heavy fiddle providing lots of texture and Michael Petulla's huge drum sound anchoring the bottom end. But by the time the band left the stage after their 80-minute set, they were already a memory. They were enjoyable if slight, bringing to mind Baumbach's Greenburg more than, say, The Squid and the Whale.

The crowd: Heavy on college girls--and the boyfriends they dragged to the show with them.

BTW: Even the roadies for Noah and the Whale were wearing suits, and one, a bowler hat, which was kind of adorable.

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