By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor in Chief
In an emotional gig at SWX, the Nottingham based band rocked the audience with a varied setlist from all three of their albums.
Amber Run, as lead singer Joshua ‘Joe’ Keogh kept stating in an earlier interview with Epigram, are primarily focused on their live performances. It was a major reason why they embarked on their first ever world tour this year, spending a month in mainland Europe before their Cardiff show on 11 October and looking forward to visiting the US next month.
Here in Bristol on a lively Saturday night (12 October), they proved that they can maintain their raw energy despite the well-known rigours of performing every night. I arrived expecting to hear the majority of their latest album, Philophobia, played - a cagey, guitar-heavy set of tracks designed to reverberate through a large audience. Instead, to the satisfaction of a room filled with loyal fans, the band went down memory lane with a fairly even split between their three albums.
The tone was set by the excellent support act, Stereo Honey. Singer Pete Restrick has choral qualities to his voice, and it was the ultimate compliment that Amber Run asked him to come back out and sing ‘Affection’ with them. In fact, when doing so, Joe talked about being able to share their platform with other talented individuals and said: ‘It’s very sobering singing next to somebody far better than you.’
Their duet was one of many touching moments in a set which tipped over the hour mark. Another was the relative silence when the band played ‘Amen’, a song which doesn’t feature on any of their three albums but instead their 2018 EP The Assembly. Before playing, Joe delved into the ‘darkness’ of their music and said that while the song is important to him, ‘it’s always a toss-up whether [Amber Run] play it because it’s like ripping a scab off every night’.
He went on to explain the song is a eulogy he wishes he said at his father’s funeral, only for a family member in the audience to correctly shout out ‘grandfather’ and add chuckles into the sombre mood. I’m fairly sure it’s untrue given the homely nature of this gig, but Joe claimed it was the first time he’d been heckled by a family member.
The whole interaction between band and audience was very personal and intimate, and you could hear a pin drop at the emotional moments and the whole crowd singing or foot-tapping at the livelier ones. At one point, they even described themselves as ‘desperately, desperately sentimental’ and if you weren’t a fan, you may have been ostracised and wondering if you had stumbled across some tight-knit electric rock community. Luckily Amber Run had judged the night well and felt like they had ‘friends in the room’, who lapped up their older, early works, such as ‘Noah’ and ‘Spark’.
Overall, the night was an up-and-down experience jumping from more stripped back, poignant songs, such as ‘Haze’ from their second album, to high octane, repetitive ones from their third and most recent album like ‘Carousel’. The finale, however, was as riled an audience as you’ll see at the more pop-centric SWX. Heads were banging, the crowd were jumping, voices screaming to the same closing anthem, ‘No Answers’, as the last time Amber Run played the same Bristol venue back in 2017. In 2019, it was another rapturous reaction to the band’s raw live energy.
Featured Image: Epigram / Patrick Sullivan
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