Review | Noah Kahan – We’ll All Be Here Forever Tour at Ruoff Music Center

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Photos courtesy of Chris Shaw/LiveNation

It takes someone special to congregate 24,000 people in Noblesville, Indiana. It takes someone extra special to create an environment so warm and welcoming to those 24,000 people that they arrive earlier than the gates open, and keep coming, their cars lining every surrounding street in a steady stream, up until the show has already begun. 

Photo © Chris Shaw at LiveNation

Noah Kahan’s We’ll All Be Here Forever Tour is nearly entirely sold out, and after seeing the atmosphere he has created for his fans and concertgoers, it is obvious why. Kahan has ultimately created a space so sacred for his fans, so hospitable and genuine, that they are just chomping at the bit to be a part of the tour experience. And he is making sure that experience is one to remember in so many ways, ranging from huge pieces like the tour’s Busyhead Project Action Village, to finer details, like the confetti shaped like autumn leaves at the end of the night. 

The Busyhead Project, an initiative named after Kahan’s debut album, was launched by Kahan just over a year ago with the goal of advocating for mental health and wellness, and raising money for a variety of foundations providing accessible mental healthcare and resources to those in all walks of life and circumstances. Having fundraised over two million dollars to date, the Busyhead Project is continuing to surpass fundraising goals by leaps and bounds, and has recently partnered with Backline, a 503(1)(c) non-profit that connects music industry professionals and their families with mental health and wellness resources, to provide tour-wide mental health care from a licensed provider to the entire band and crew. 

To connect the Busyhead Project with fans throughout the tour, Kahan has created the Busyhead Project Action Village, a hands-on experience where concertgoers can learn more about organizations, share a positive message to The Busyhead Project Community Wall, and even prepare to vote with actions courtesy of HeadCount. Between the Action Village, and Noah making appearances in the merch booth to sell his tour merch to fans, he’s making sure that the folks in attendance feel like they matter – something that goes a long way, and carries on throughout the night. 

Opening in Noblesville on Friday was singer-songwriter Ryan Beatty, whose set was laidback, gentle, and a great way to set the tone for the evening. Performing a beautiful slew of songs filled with the strum of an acoustic guitar and a fantastic backing band, Beatty performed fan favorites off his most recent album Calico including “Bruises Off the Peach,” and “Ribbons,” as well as a handful of other originals. About halfway through his set, a stunning cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” made its way through the amphitheater, and the crowd was happy to croon along with Beatty for the entire song. 

Not long after Beatty leaves the stage, the sun begins to sink lower, the crowd fills in more densely. Suddenly, the stage is blacked out, and all eyes are on the screens – where everyone sees none other than Noah Kahan himself, whipping around on a racetrack in a go-kart, lap after lap, past the busses and straight up to the back entrance of the amphitheater. Seconds later, he hops out of said go kart, pulls his helmet off, and walks out – right onto the stage itself. And just like that, the night has truly begun!

In a set of blue coveralls, hair in two french braids, and a guitar in-hand, he makes his way across the stage, while his drummer is playing a fiery beat, his band are beginning their parts, and the crowd is shrieking and cheering and hooting and hollering. And with a grin on his face that could stretch from Indiana to Vermont and back, he begins the first line of “Dial Drunk”. 

And as Noah begins the song, the crowd begins it with him – and continues to stay with him, singing along to every line of every song, for the remainder of the night. During “Everywhere, Everything”, everyone sways, and  the crowd is an ocean of glowing phone lights shrouded by blue hour, belting out “til our fingers decompose, keep my hand in yours.” It is nothing short of magic. 

Tracks like “False Confidence” and “Forever” create an atmosphere delicate and soft-spoken, where voices in the crowd still echo the lyrics back, but do so in such a gentle way that they could be mistaken for a recording at points. 

Though the crowd is massive, there is still something so intimate about this performance – recognized by both Noah and his fans. “The first time I played in Indianapolis, I played to a 500 cap room, and I don’t think it was sold out. I don’t know, but this definitely seems like more than 500 people,” he jokes. Part-way into the night, he transforms the stage into something a bit cozier – a white picket fence, large pictures in frames, and a few chairs for himself and his accompanists – “I wanted to bring my mom’s living room to you guys for the next two songs – sorry I couldn’t bring the generational trauma with!” he jokes, the crowd whooping and laughing at the last bit. 

Kahan has an onstage presence that does make the audience feel at home, though, and it continues throughout the night. His mixture of jokes about unserious topics “anyway, here’s ‘Wonderwall’” and “Nickelback fucking rocks, there, I said it,” and the lightening of heavier topics, like mental illness and divorced parents, feels like sitting at home with an old friend. There is comfort in sharing both light and darkness in a genuine way, and just as much of his music reflects on this, Kahan’s personality does, as well. 

He spends in-between moments asking the audience to applaud his band, introducing us to each of them one by one, making sure we know their names and how crucial they are to his performance. During “Paul Revere,” while the stage is projected with beautiful visuals of winding, woodsy roads and a cabin in the snow, we are gifted the most stunning violin solo by one of Kahan’s incredible supporting musicians, Nina de Vitry. 

Throughout the night, moments like Nina’s solo peek through like beams of sunlight through curtains – just small moments here and there making sure to remind the audience that the show they are watching is made up of more than just one man, something that Noah is very vocal about. 

Another aspect of Kahan’s performance that is crucial to note is the beauty of his stage design – it is never overbearing, but is always significant. Framed with hanging braided cords and ropes, and a background LED screen made to look like winding mountains, or an aerial view of a map, this stage is set to tie right into Noah’s sound, his visual aesthetic, and what his performance should feel like. 

During “Your Needs, My Needs,” a rather heavy song lyrically, and a pretty somber one, he performs with the stage dimly lit and blue-toned… until the bridge, when his vocals crescendo, and suddenly the stage is lit by countless individual bulbs of light that rise from the floor to the ceiling, like floating pieces of starlight. A detail that, no, would not make or break a performance, but is still so impactful to the audience that cheers and gasps are heard all throughout the grounds. A detail that completely changes the tone of the performance, emphasizes its sound, and makes it a multi-sensory experience.

Following “Your Needs, My Needs”, Kahan’s performance of an unreleased track, “The Great Divide” features the stage lit with streaming beams of the faintest blush pink, and it feels like watching a sunrise made of a painter’s brush strokes. It is gentle, it is soft, and it amplifies the performance in a completely new way.

Halfway through the night, as another way to connect with the crowd, Kahan snakes his way through the crowd over to a pop-up B-stage placed just between the edge of the ampitheater’s seats and the lawn, bringing him closer to the sea of folks spread out across the grass. During this portion of the set, we are witness to “Growing Sideways” and “Maine” both acoustic, both solo, both moving beyond words. And once the moment is over, he returns to the main stage, where he breaks into the fast-paced and fun “She Calls Me Back”. 

After “She Calls Me Back,” the audience gets to bear witness to Noah’s performing “Call Your Mom”, which yet again has the crowd swaying, lovers and family members and friends holding onto each other as they sing along and move to the music. As the set is beginning to wind down, the energy is not, and the crowd holds onto every word of “Orange Juice,” and then shouts each line of “Northern Attitude” like they want to be heard on the other side of the planet (they probably can be). 

For his encore, Noah makes his way back onto the stage for “The View Between Villages” and the notorious “Stick Season”, this time in none other than a Caitlin Clark jersey, again smiling with a twinkle in his eye. For these two songs, just as with every other, he and his band give their all, and the crowd gives it right back. By the end of “Stick Season”, there is confetti in the shape of yellow, orange, and red autumn leaves raining from the ceiling, and everyone is over the moon.

It is no secret that Kahan’s fans want to stay right there forever, just like the song says, and it is also no secret why. Very few performers put on a concert or a tour like the We’ll All Be Here Forever Tour, and the ones like Noah, the ones who do, will truly stand the test of time as artists.