Gig Review: Noble Jacks @ Chapel Arts Centre
by Polly Hember
This is the kind of music that begs to be experienced live. It bursts forward with a stream of raw energy; the instruments are played with such fever that at times the dancing audience felt like they couldn’t keep up (although we gave it a damn good try) and the drums propel the music onwards into oblivion.
This was a story in two halves; the Nobel Jacks were set to play to the modest Chapel Arts Centre tucked away down the side streets of Bath. The filled-out room was full of candle-lit tables, looking more like a relaxed jazz club than a setting for foot-stomping music. Frontman Will Page acknowledged the peculiar seated set-up, jokily inviting people to jump up and dance on them and imploring people to flip the tables over to make room. Having spent the summer on the festival circuit, I can’t imagine a setting more dissimilar to the lively muddy dancefloors they’ve been used to.
Starting off with their slower songs, Noble Jacks demonstrated their passionate knowledge for alt-country music. Page’s soaring fiddle playing and delivery of faultless lead vocals was impressive. ‘Garden Duel’ was particularly tender, with prominent folky harmonies washing over the audience. The rocky and rogue ‘Ramblers Steam’ was a favourite, with brilliant harmonica that explodes in the chorus, instilling a restless and rallying energy that saw a few seated members stand momentarily to swing and dance about.
Taking a short break, the eventful interval saw the chairs and tables pushed back, leaving a small circle for dancing. This was a fantastic decision; this music needs a dancefloor, especially when the band knows what awaits in the second half of their set.
Starting off with a soft and hopeful song ‘Dreams Carry Me On’, Page took to the stage on his own at first, to be joined by the rest of the band, building up the rich and delightfully rough soundscape gradually and gloriously. The seated audience took a bit of encouragement to take to the dancefloor, starting off with a trickle of lively dancers which then broke into a brilliant, crowded and sweaty hoedown with everyone on their feet, stomping and singing along.
Guitarist Matt Deveson joked that he felt as if he was watching the end of Footloose. These country Kevin Bacons had roused the sleepy seated crowd, culminating in a fantastic and wild ‘Blacksmith Stomp’, where Page demonstrated a short dance move of kicks and stomps for the audience to follow along. Fantastic rhythm from Declan Haughian, infectious fiddle playing from Page, roaring and rocky guitar from Deveson and deep and steady bass from Ant Longhurst all came together in loud volumes for this last song, exploding in insurmountable energy and brilliantly catchy country riffs.
The highlights were undoubtedly the rowdy, rocky numbers and that brilliant moment where the crowd flocked to the dancefloor. We also witnessed a glimpse of a new Noble Jacks album, their song ‘Late Night Train’ was hugely enjoyable and jaunty. So much of their music centres around journeys, restless movement and leaving places: ‘Running Man’, ‘Reason to Stay’, ‘Leaving for the Weekend’ and ‘Enjoy the Ride’ all have a transitory theme, with ‘Late Night Train’ adding to this journey. This is an exciting time for the Noble Jacks, stomping down a road with insatiable energy to who knows where. Wherever these Jacks are heading, it’s where you want to be. Make sure you watch out for when they ride through your town.