Amber Run Play Sold Out Gig At Phoenix

by Ben Leslie

Image Credit: Fran Welch

Amber Run are on the road again, and three days after the release of their second album, For A Moment, I Was Lost, they called into Exeter, bringing support acts Meadowlark and ISLAND with them. After cramming as many plays of their record in during the days leading up to the concert, I was excited to see how the five piece band from Nottingham had changed since the last time I saw them back in 2014 supporting Lewis Watson.

Having missed the first support act, Meadowlark, we hurried in to catch the beginning of ISLAND’s set, a four piece indie rock band from London on their second tour with Amber Run. The raspy lead vocal of Rollo Doherty mixed with catchy basslines and guitar riffs created an upbeat sound comparable to The Kooks, a cracking start to the night. A lot of head banging and hair whipping later (courtesy of James Wolfe on the bass), the band were out of songs and made way for the headliners Amber Run. By this stage in the evening the audience had filed in and Phoenix was packed ready for the sold-out show. As the band came on and opened with Spark, the crowd were instantly on their level, yelling the words “Let the light in” straight back to frontman Joe Keogh as the song built to a soaring chorus filling the room. Keeping with their first album the band then played Pilot, a song dominated by drums and choral vocals throughout, the atmosphere was tangible and the buzz inside the room becoming ever louder.

The band started to work through some of their newer material, with songs like Insomniac, Stranger and Fickle Game. In comparison with their first album, the tracks off For A Moment, I Was Lost are heavier, with more of an emphasis on overdrive guitar Keogh combines emotive, desperate lyrics with upbeat instrumental sections. In an already overcrowded genre that sees the likes of Bastille and Kodaline leading the way, Amber Run can’t simply follow in the footsteps of fellow bands. They need to discern themselves from the rest, which is no easy task, but it is fair to say I think they achieve this. The band proved this on Monday night, effortlessly transitioning between their heavier anthems and the softer ballads. Fickle Game, one of my favourite tracks from their latest release, is an example of the sound we have come to know and love, and performed live it did not disappoint. The band created an ethereal, almost ghostly vibe with soaring highs as Keogh deftly worked his way through the falsetto section, the crowd fell silent, totally absorbed.

Towards the end of their set Amber Run re-visited their first album, playing hits 5am and Noah, frontman Keogh still looked in awe as he stepped back to watch the crowd sing every word. After stepping off stage the band were back for the encore, but before starting up again, Keogh stopped and asked for a moment of silence from the crowd to hear him out. He divulged into opening up about his depression, and said the band are never sure whether to play their next song, Haze. After whipping up the crowd into a frenzy and soaking up the hype only a few songs before, Haze has a completely different vibe, slowing the pace down with an acapella ballad nodding to the battles inside Keogh’s head. Mid-way through this speech a man at the front yelled out “play the damn song already”, and this threw Keogh completely off his stride. He stopped and told the guy to shut up and let him speak, but he then added that “this isn’t some spur of the moment monologue, it’s all scripted, so don’t be that guy and ruin it.” I guess I had this romantic idea that artists got up on stage and spontaneously filled the interludes with poetic analogies and heartfelt stories. These hopes were dashed, however his words were still incredibly poignant, allowing the crowd to emotionally connect with the song whilst raising an incredibly important issue. Haze turned out to be one of the highlights of the gig, and left the crowd stunned after the beautiful rendition.

Before the gig was over the pace picked up once more with the band bursting into arguably their most famous number, I Found, followed by the heavier No Answers. Keogh yelled “this is the moment I get to pretend I am in a rock n’ roll band”, before erupting into the relenting chorus, blowing the audience away with a fitting end to a memorable gig.