Amber Run

Amber Run


Amber Run are in Manchester tonight to kick off their headline tour, ahead of the release of their debut album (coming out later this year).

I saw Nottingham 5 piece Amber Run at this very venue at last year’s Dot to Dot festival, then again at The Soup Kitchen in November as part of The Communion Presents… New Faces Tour (I called it the Renee Zellweger tour, no one laughed). At Dot to Dot, lead singer Joe Keogh had it pointed out by the crowd that his fly was down. They reminded him of this at The Soup Kitchen gig. Is Keogh’s wardrobe malfunction destined to become Amber Run’s legacy when it comes to the great city of Manchester? I’m at a sold out Deaf Institute to find out.

As I arrive there’s a four piece band on stage, a gentle mix of acoustic song writing and subtle electronic beats. “I am The Beach” announces the lead singer. I wonder, if you are ‘The Beach’ who are the other guys? This reminds me of a Twitter conversation I recently had with ‘I am’ Saint Raymond (here). So, presuming that ‘The Beach’ has a similar deal going on, credit has to go to the musicians put together to back him. They are tight and talented, perfectly complimenting Beach’s radio friendly songs. I am even more impressed when Beach announces “This is our first gig ever, together”. The stand out track is Boats, which causes quite a stir when ‘Game of Thrones’ is referenced in the lyrics. If I have a criticism of Beach, is that his trousers are way too tight. I know from the film Superbad that Beach is displaying what is known as ‘Male Camel Toe’, which I find rather distracting. Before their final song the band are introduced, drummer Ben, bass player John and multi-instrumentalist Andy who is the best looking according to Beach. They close on Thieves, available to listen to now on Soundcloud here.

Pixel Fix are a four piece band from Oxford, most noticeable for their gravity defying hair and band uniform of wearing a black T shirt. They were on the New Faces tour with Amber Run and return to Manchester with a sound not a million miles away from 90’s indie disco, polished off with programmed beats and samples. They open their set with Lungs, their best song to date.
For some reason the crowd don’t seem to be that into Pixel Fix, remaining quiet and still for much of the set. Maybe they are just getting impatient waiting for the night’s headliners, or maybe people are distracted by how difficult it is to get to the bar at a packed out Deaf Institute. Most likely, people find it easy to switch off because Pixel Fix songs have a tendency to sound very similar. Songs like Fall and Rosa are great stand-alone tracks, but get a little lost in the shuffle live. However, Pixel Fix are a well-polished live act, and there are some definite positives. This band, more than the others tonight, fuse electric elements with their guitar driven songs. They are not reliant on the samples and beats though, it only adds to their sound and if you took away the wizardry you would still have a decent band. I am also a big fan of the double microphone set up for lead singer Marcus, one clean and one drowned in effects. He switches between the two during the set, which is both audibly and visually pleasing. The best thing about seeing this band live, however, is their hair. During instrumental portions of a song the band all lean forward and shake their perfectly lengthened hair. Every member of the band is somewhat an expert in this.

Photo courtesy of @LivsPhotos

Photo courtesy of @LivsPhotos

The crowd is obviously delighted when Amber Run take to the stage, and stand in awe as the band opens with I Found, a gentle opener drenched with impressive harmonies. I notice Keogh has his T-shirt untucked, he is taking no chances. Tonight is about the music. Almost instantly the set sees a change in pace as Amber Run rock through new single Just My Soul Responding and Pilot which has the audience enthusiastically clapping along. The crowd then have a sing along to Little Ghost, which seemingly has the band lost for words. Eventually, Keogh manages to compose himself enough to address the crowd, “You guys are fucking crazy”. The crowd couldn’t be happier.

Next up is a track from Amber Run’s forthcoming album. 5AM is a slow and reflective song with a strong beat. The message is a simple one, wishing to be 21 again. A sentiment probably wasted on this young crowd. As a slight feeling of melancholy sweeps across the room, Keogh tries to raise the audience’s spirits, shouting “Have you brought your dancing shoes?” before bursting into another new track called Hurricane. Unfortunately, some sections of the crowd seem to be getting restless and are shouting out for their favourite song Noah as if it is the only song they have come to see. “Last new one then hit city” announces Keogh, as though he’s making a compromise. Drummer, Felix Archer, sits twirling his drumsticks in anticipation. The band plays See you Soon, an upbeat keys driven song that will no doubt be a highlight of future shows once the album is released.

At this point, Amber run start playing a slowed down version of the song Heaven. The crowd sway side to side as they sing along. Then Keogh shouts “ALRIGHT MANCHESTER!” and the song kicks in to its familiar pace, with the crowd again enthusiastically clapping along. You can tell the band are having an emotional night, Keogh starts thanking the crowd and mumbles something about it being a ‘weird one’ and then proclaims that he doesn’t ‘give a fuck’ about being cool. He tries to clarify “We want to come down on a Sunday night and play to you guys”. Everyone approves. Keogh then encourages another sing along and as the band kick into Spark and the crowd go wild. Four crazy minutes later the band leave the stage to rapturous applause.

A few minutes later Keogh returns with an acoustic guitar joined by lead guitarist Will Jones. “Sometimes songs are difficult to play, but you guys seem to like it” Keogh confesses to the audience before playing a beautifully stripped back version of Kites. The crowd watch on in respectful silence and as the duo bring the song to a close they are met with an emphatic response. The rest of the band return and Keogh starts playing through the chords of Noah while leading a sing-along. The rest of the band join in and the audience go crazy. It seems that this song is what everyone was waiting for all night.

As the crowd are screaming out the lyrics ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’ I have a closer look around me. Most people are singing and clapping along, those that aren’t have their phones out, obviously documenting this historic event for future generations to admire. A small mosh pit breaks out and a lady starts playing air drums. There is even some Jersey Shore style fist-pumping happening.

So there we have it. Whether people were there because they loved the band, or if they just liked the song Noah, everyone goes home happy which is surely the point. Amber Run return to Manchester on 30th of April.

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