This seems to be the time for Noah and the Whale. Their new album has been given extensive press coverage and air time, more so than any of their previous releases, and interest has soared. As an old fan, I thought tonight would be an interesting test of the band. Do they rise up to the new found mass hype, focusing on new material and forgetting the old, a la Arctic Monkeys, or do they enjoy their musical journey in one performance? Whatever the outcome, it would be a while before we even entered the venue. Queues of liked minded fans lined up outside the venue, waiting for the go ahead from the burly security guard to enter their own musical heaven. This may seem like an exaggeration, and it almost is, but there is something different about this combination. Take the Deaf Institute, one of the loveliest venues in Manchester, (and possibly the world), with its tiered old cinema-style seating area, parrot wallpaper and intimate setting, and add in one of the high points of current British indie folk and you get a tremendous outcome. A bubbling excitement ripples through the building as eager patrons filter up to this beautiful music hall. I could go on about the venue all day, but my thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of Benjamin Francis Leftwich on stage. He arrived with such humility and quietness, the room was unsure whether to clap their first act or snigger at an over adventurous roadie! It was soon clear that this was tonight’s support, and thank god he was. ‘It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for’, your Grandmother would say, and boy was she right. Leftwich’s talent was clear from the start, as he began with the most beautiful guitar notes, full of awe and emotion. Hope filled lyrics and delicate melodies sail through the still air as the set goes on, each person held captive by the understated talent before them. As he settles into his set, Leftwich lets out little anecdotes, littered with charm and exuding a quiet confidence. This is a man who knows his self-taught talent, but knows he has to prove it. Straying away from the microphone, a dreamy voice filters through the air, unadulterated by electricity, laying his talent bare. If there were flaws or cracks in this performance, this would have been the time to see them, but they were nowhere to be seen. With only two short EPs under his belt, he still has a way to go. But, in terms of talent, he has arrived. The interval was a welcome break, to choke back the tears and wipe away any strays that may have been shed. And to watch the already tight 250 capacity room fill to the rafters. I remark upon our luck and need for early arrival tonight, as we watch the queues up the stair trail to outside, and with no hope of moving. It became apparent after the gig that the night was oversold, and the stair was still fit to burst with eager music lovers as the headline band took to the stage. A little empathy was held with those music refugees hanging at the entrance, but this was soon quashed by excitement as Noah and the Whale appeared, dressed in three piece suits and shiny shoes. A quick hello and it’s on with the show. What better opener could you have for the band than ‘Blue Skies’? A wonderfully rich and hopeful introduction to the nature of the band, and the honest, visual lyrics penned by lead singer Charlie Fink. The beauty of this was soon shattered by a cry of ‘take your pants off!!’ from an overzealous female fan, with the witty retort ‘but what would we do for an encore?’ from the confident frontman. Even with their newly polished appearance, high maintenance instruments (Fink had a new guitar for every song) and sudden success, the band show they are just normal guys, seemingly unaffected by the racing interest they have received of late. Never before have I seen such a popular band so happy just to be performing. Smiles were plastered everywhere, most notably the new drummer, Michael Petulla, who looked like he could have been in The Beatles during their early phase complete with waistcoat and cheesy grin! It became infectious, defying anyone not to be having as much fun as these guys before us. As the night went on, it was clear that in a few short years Noah and the Whale had changed. Not that this is a bad thing. In fact, progression is needed within music to stave off boredom. And it is so clearly defined in one performance tonight. A combination of styles and a mix of albums, from the upbeat electro ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night’ to the incredibly sombre ‘The First Days of Spring’. It becomes a showcase of talent, for all members of the band. Multi-instrumentalists show their skills, from guitar and piano to violin and glockenspiel. A small portion of the evening was dedicated to the solemn, predominantly featuring songs from the break-up inspired second album The First Days of Spring. It felt like a conscious effort to display their increasing maturity with each album and performance, which possibly explains the shift from bright coloured trousers to the aforementioned shiny shoes. It was clear this pleased the fans, as they provided the hushed backing vocals, like the most beautiful choral harmonies ringing through a gothic church. Technologies are always raving about the 3D, but this was the most 3D musical experience anyone can have. Music leaping from the stage into the audience’s collective mouth and fired back at the band in quiet hushed tones. It was beautiful to witness. Combine this with the notable considered use of lighting, including spotlights, blues and greens, complete darkness and even a glitter ball, the mood and tone was defined and emotive What is obvious with this band is that Fink is a story teller. A raconteur of life, both mundane and bizarre. He trawls the depths of emotion, of life and death, and paints verbal pictures backed by beautiful notes. Performing songs from the first album show that this has always been the case, that it has simply matured. ‘If there’s any love in me, don’t let it show’ from the second single ‘Shape of my Heart’ demonstrates his ability to capture an emotion in one sentence as equally as he can describe lost souls and characters in ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’. Or even just the pleasure and pain of a relationship, as detailed in their final encore piece ‘5 Years Time’. Their sound has certainly developed and it would seem that the band, lead singer Charlie Fink in particular, have found their solace. Whilst most of their musical friends may have passed them in mass popularity, see Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, it is clear that Noah and the Whale should not be over looked. For the casual fan, the treat is in the individual song, the crafted beauty of the single. For the avid fan, it is this plus the charting musical progression of a talented band. Certainly a must see band. Definitely in an intimate venue.