Live Review: Amber Run – Manchester

Amber Run

Academy 2, Manchester, 23rd February 2017

Words & Photos: Elena Katrinaamber run elena katrina

I’ve been looking forward to this tour since the day it was announced and then once the support acts were added it was my most highly anticipated show so far for 2017. Three of our favourite bands all on one line up, it’s what gigging and blogging dreams are made of.

On the night I was pleased to see a steady flow of crowd pumping into the venue in time for first support Meadowlark. I’ve watched this pair’s live performance really blossom over the past few years and this was a delight to see. They still have an almost awkward uncertainty about them when talking to a larger crowd – selling tickets for your next show is a cool and exciting thing to do, don’t tell the crowd they might hate you –  they won’t. The crowd’s reaction proved this and I saw one girl on the front row double check with Daniel about the tickets. The crowd were a little uncertain though about joining in on the singing parts of Fly, but with some encouragement and some getting used to it, by the end there was some enthusiastic ooohhhing from parts of the crowd. It’s a great tour for the duo to have and I’m sure their next Manchester show at The Castle, will be a special one.

amber run elena katrinaNext up main support, if you’ll have it called that, was London’s Island. A band who I admittedly only saw live for the first time at the end of 2016, despite having following them with keen interest and a steady collection of their vinyl. Signed to one of my favourite labels,  Beatnik (once home to Palace, and still home to Eliza Shaddad), the band step up a gear with their live performance and are an absolute thrill to watch live. In fact, I’m never sure to to be watching the most as my eyes flit across from one member to the other, all of them totally enthralled in what they’re doing – just like a band should be. There’s interaction between members, wry smiles, energetic guitar thrusting, immense hair flicking (when you have hair like James you have to get it out of your face somehow I guess – I heard him mutter to himself that he has too much hair – which of course, he could tie up, but he knows too well how cool a hair flick is to keep people further entertained!). Island definitely had some fans in the crowd, and one at the side of stage, as Amber Run’s Joe stood and enjoyed the entire set, beer in hand. We like this  – a lot. If Island had some fans to start with I’m certain that they left with even more – crowd reaction was great and I can’t wait to see them again already. Highlights for me included, early track Stargazer, the incredible Spotless Mind and latest EP track A Place You Like.

While Island raised the bar, they also raised the temperature as I suddenly realised that I was absolutely boiling, like a boil in the bag rice! By the time Amber Run stepped on to stage I could hardly see for the amount of smoke that had been pumped out into the venue – because of course without smoke there’s no atmosphere – or air to breathe. The atmosphere was already there regardless of smoke, but I did enjoy the light show that set the band’s energetic show alight. Opening their set with Spark was a sure fire way to come out and grab the audience by the proverbial horns, and the place just erupted into a euphoric sing-along and bouncing.

Amber Run seem to have enjoyed this tour more than any other time I’ve seen them, and I saw them play their 5th or 6th ever gig. This time though they know what they almost lost and seem to have found a new appreciation for everything and that’s something more people can connect with, than a band who has just had everything go their way. Amber Run have always, clearly, loved to play live; they all have their role and stick to it – for example, out front  Tomas stands strong and fierce, Joe beckoning the crowd to cheer and get involved, Will encouraging the clapping along, and the fans clearly love it, I know I love it.

amber run elena katrinaI had wondered how the band would go about putting together their set list now that they had a strong collection of songs to play around with and was really pleased with the selection. I really enjoyed that they picked both Good Morning and 5am from their self titled debut album because not being singles they both are a stark contrast to each other in terms of sound and theme, but both work so well live. 5am in particular is probably the only album track on that album that feels like it connects through to For A Moment, I Was Lost, at least in terms of the darker theme.

Of course the singles, such as Noah, all went down, err… a storm (Sorry I couldn’t help the storm/flood reference) and I love how much this song feels like it’s changed over time but still feels so comforting; a real Amber Run live set staple. New tracks too took on a new lease of life. Insomniac, the earliest newbie in the setlist, felt vibrant and kick ass. For me though, a stand out moment during the set was when Joe introduced Dark Bloom; “This song is about our relationship with music which has been fraught in the last 14 months. It’s nights like these why you remember why you fucking bothered.” That impassioned introduction left me feeling so proud of them and of the journey they have taken and lucky, lucky that I’d been following it so long and lucky that I was able to be there and witness it. Shortly after this show their show last night (Sat 25th) at London’s Kentish Town Forum, sold out. That’s a sold out show to 2500 people. I wish I could have been there too but other commitments meant I couldn’t but what a night that must have been. This is a band who connect with a pretty wide range of ages and across the genders, race and aren’t defined by anything anymore aside from their ability to pen a tune and perform it live.

 

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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