Fresh off a Grammy nod for Best New Artist, the singer-songwriter plays to an enthused London audience
There’s something a little surreal about a sold-out 2,300 capacity venue screaming along to folk music. That’s not to say that Noah Kahan is anything close to the first act to take folk mainstream – he follows in the footsteps of the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Hozier and plenty of others. But where Kahan is unique is in the fanbase he has built for himself, converting an audience of largely young, female pop and indie pop enjoyers (think listeners of Taylor Swift, Gracie Abrams, Maisie Peters and Olivia Rodrigo) to passionate fans of the banjo.
Well over an hour before Kahan is due to appear onstage, it’s hard to picture where another person might fit in the Kentish Town venue. The place is packed full, fans screaming for opening act Tiny Habits like they’re headlining. The trio of vocalists are ones to watch in their own right, a perfect warm-up for Kahan’s cathartic folk with their thoughtful lyricism and delicate harmonies. When Kahan does appear onstage, walking out with a wave, hair in French braids, the response seems disproportionate for a breakthrough artist. Kahan is greeted by his fans like he’s about to play the Superbowl.
‘Northern Attitude’ is a ripper of an opener, both for an album and a live show. It encapsulates everything Kahan has come to be adored for: raw, self-exposing lyrics wrapped up in a big folk-rock instrumental. There are plenty of anthems to come: ‘She Calls Me Back’ sees Kahan pining after an ex, whilst ‘You’re Gonna Go Far’ encourages the assembled crowd not to be afraid to get out in the world. One of the crowd favourites – which is saying something, seeing as the crowd know every one – is ‘Dial Drunk’, a cautionary tale of intoxication, arrest and still having your ex as your emergency contact. And then, of course, there’s ‘Stick Season’, the album’s title track that found TikTok success thanks to its earworm melody and jaunty pessimism. It’s driven largely by Kahan and his acoustic guitar, and both are almost drowned out.
But this is the joyful thing about tapping into the demographic that Kahan has: they don’t love by halves. If Gen Z women decide that you are worth supporting, they will learn every line you have ever penned and scream them at you like they’ve been personally victimized by each one. The same fans who will likely be dancing in the stands of Wembley Stadium at the Eras Tour come next summer will stomp-clap so hard to a banjo-driven folk song about your generational trauma that the balcony trembles. A Noah Kahan show is not just a chance to see one of the next big names in action – it’s an opportunity to witness a truly adored artist. And it’s joyous.
Photo credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns