The crowd was packed loosely so we could find a place to watch without worrying about spilled drinks or feisty shoves. The lights were gently bright and the sound just loud enough that you didn't notice the loudness. The band had all the novelties that appeal to someone who doesn't get to shows very often. Everything went smoothly.
My dad told me he had not been to a club show since Bob Dylan just after college, which, while a respectable most-recent show to have been to, meant it had been quite some time. He visited me St. Louis for a few days, and I thought it would be fun to show him how I spend a night or two of most weeks.
Singer-songwriter LP had to pull out of her opening spot on the tour after an injury about two weeks ago, so local talent Dots Not Feathers filled in for our date. They played a quick set of indie folk that somehow fit perfectly with Noah and the Whale. The two bands have similarly constructed songs with simple backing instrumentation and lots of vocal harmonizing. Both fall mostly in the realm of indie-rock or folk, but have moments of Americana and blues.
Noah and the Whale took the stage at around 9:15 p.m., entering to what my dad identified as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." For the rest of the night, I told him the names of songs.
Dapperly dressed, with some wearing ties, a few wearing vests and most wearing leather Oxfords, the quartet from London were warmly welcomed by a passionate crowd. Front man Charlie Fink's suit was cut so neatly that if his slender frame grew even a bit, it probably would have busted at the seam. As the night progressed, it became less and less perfectly tailored, first with the unbuttoning of the top button, then the removal of his jacket. Bassist Matt Owens stood out, with a velvet jacket, cowboy boots and a feather sticking out of his hat, resembling a combination of Angus Young and Jack White.
It made sense for Noah and rthe Whale to start with "Tonight's the Kind of Night." It's the kind of song a set should start with: upbeat, positive and with a memorable chorus. Crowds usually take a few songs to gain the confidence to sing along, but echoes of the chorus, "Oh tonight's the kind of night/Where everything could change," could be heard from the first time it came through. Tom Hobden moving from keys to violin a bit later led to another early on moment of excitement. Easily 6 feet tall, he stood confidently at center stage, rarely breaking perfect posture or looking away from the enchanted crowd.
Charlie Fink is a very talkative front man, perhaps a bit too much, but his English charm made the frequent breaks manageable. I especially enjoyed when he mentioned that the seven-year-old band had never played St. Louis before. "I think it's to your benefit," he joked. "We've had time hone our craft and mature as individuals."
Maybe some of the banter seemed a bit superficial, but the crowd loved it. The whole night, teenagers pushed their way towards the stage, hoping to get as close to Fink as possible and maybe catch his eye for a moment or be like the lucky girl in the front row who had "Jacosta" dedicated to her.
Noah and the Whale played a longer set at the Pageant than it had at some of its prior shows, giving us 17 songs instead of the usual 14 or 15. "Two Atoms and a Molecule" had been added to the set list for the first time at our show, but with folky thumps, prominent violin and fast Americana-esque instrumentation, it ended up being one of the night's best moments.
"L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." also pleased the crowd, both because everyone loves a good spell-along or and because of the uplifting message. Even my dad, who didn't know any of the words prior to the show, sang along a few times. I joined in, too.
The show ended with the whistling of "5 Years Time" and the moodier "The First Days of Spring" as an encore. I took some quick notes about why I felt so happy before we made our way out of the Pageant, debating whether or not to get ice cream on our way home.
Concerts are special and memorable for different reasons, I noted. Some have catchy songs, admirable instrumentation or performers you enjoy watching. Others have sentimental value, like a band you loved as a kid, songs that mean something to you, or great company to share the experience with. This show had all of those things.