[GIG REVIEW] Amber Run @ Thekla, Bristol, 1st November 2015

Several murmurs and whispers full of anticipation circulated the compact Thekla in Bristol on Sunday night. With an audience full of a mixed demographic, excitement filled the room as all waited for Nottingham five-piece Amber Run to set foot onto the stage. Eventually, the brightness of the room diminished and atmospheric sounds permeated the space, the crowd resorted to stillness as they awaited the appearance of the first band member. Before long, drummer Felix Archer took to the stage, receiving ecstatic cheers from the entire audience, along with bassist Tom Sperring, guitarist Will Jones and keyboard-player Henry Wyeth. Frontman Joe Keogh graced the stage bearing an expression of deep thought, ready to launch into the first track of the night ‘Wastelands.’

Comprised of effortless harmonies and electronic sounds which added to the overall ambience, brand new song ‘Wastelands’ was an exceptional way to commence the gig. The signature ‘Amber Run’ sound was being reinforced, with the exceptional musicianship of the band already being evident through the intricate layering of vocals throughout the chorus of this chilled-out but poignant track. Following this stunning introduction, Amber Run immediately started playing ‘Spark’, one of the energetic, anthemic tunes taken from their d├ębut album ‘5am’. Establishing their place on the staging, the band instantly received audience participation throughout this number, with ‘Let the light in, Let the light in’ echoing around the entire venue and numerous people old and young clapping along to the rhythm. ‘Just My Soul Responding’ closely followed, embellished with catchy choruses and reflective lyrics, one could not help but be transfixed for the duration of the song. Smiles beamed continuously all around the sold-out space, which filled the room with elation as well as appreciation for the songwriting skills of this talented band. Prominent tune ‘Hurricane’ went down a storm. Incorporating Will Jones’ melodious guitar riffs along with Joe Keogh’s flawless vocals, this track was undoubtedly a memorable one. The energy and enthusiasm of the band was evident, with each member ensuring that they gave a performance worth giving.

Lead singer Joe Keogh addressed the crowd before introducing deluxe track ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’ to the set. Explaining how grateful they were for the support, Amber Run expressed their noticeable humility. Brimming with driving drum beats and spirited lyrics, ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’ is a hit in itself which guaranteed the entire public to feel a sense of glee. Displaying their true capabilities as musicians, Amber Run performed the more tranquil tracks of their album to the receptive audience. Despite experiencing a small technical difficulty at the start of ‘Little Ghost,’ the band maintained their professionalism and were back on their feet soon enough with an exceptional guitar solo by Will Jones in the climax of the track. Dynamic variation is a principle quality of this talented band, and this was obvious throughout the calmer, more thought-provoking songs of the set. Instrumental track ‘CF’ was a definite highlight, made up of electronic tones being slowly layered with live guitar and bass sections one could not help but feel mesmerised by this moving track. As the dynamics drew to a crescendo, the layers eventually ceased, which left an unaccompanied guitar part in order to establish the perfect lead into touching track ‘5am.’ Possessing exceedingly emotional lyrics, ‘5am’ was most definitely one of the best parts of the evening. Sung with a great sense of significance and meaning, Joe Keogh ensured that he portrayed the story behind the tune superbly by using intricate vocal techniques as well as atmospheric vibrato to add to the emotion of the track. Henry Wyeth’s keyboard playing added to the overall simplicity, making sure that the effect of the emotion of the track was prominent throughout.

Joe Keogh exclaimed to the crowd, ‘We don’t know when we’ll be visiting Bristol again so let’s make this a night to remember.’ With that, the more summery tune ‘Good Morning’ was played. The entire crowd sang every lyric back to the band, reflecting how popular Amber Run are in Bristol especially. Immediately following this vibrant tune, Amber Run performed two immensely well-known tracks, ‘Heaven’ and ‘I Found.’ ‘Heaven’ was highly adrenalised as it was meant to be, consisting of slightly heavier guitar and drum sections the entire boat became more and more animated. ‘Heaven’ culminated with a balance of melodious harmonies which triggered goosebumps for sure. ‘I Found’, probably the band’s most acclaimed tune, was welcomed instantaneously with cheers from every corner of the venue. The audience drew to a sudden silence as soon as the euphonious voices of the band produced the most spine-tingling harmonies throughout the entire song. Building-up slowly with added instrumental parts, ‘I Found’ was unquestionably a climactic moment of the evening. Amber Run promptly departed the stage, only to immediately receive cheers demanding an encore.

Soon enough, the band obliged and graced the stage one last time. High-powered percussion from Felix Archer introduced the penultimate track ‘Pilot’. Memorable chorus ‘I don’t wanna be the centre of anything, just a part of something bigger,’ constantly circulated the space, with every audience member dancing and singing along with never-ending enthusiasm. Amber Run drew their set to a close with anthemic tune ‘Noah.’ Alternatively commencing this energetic track in a slow, contemplative way, frontman Joe Keogh seized the crowd’s attention. As soon as the second verse arose, full instrumentation was restored and the dynamic contrast ensured that one could appreciate what a truly exceptional song ‘Noah’ is. The sold-out audience of all ages chanted the chorus back and forth which resulted in them being almost as loud as the band itself at one stage, it was certainly a magical moment. Amber Run terminated the set with a vivacious instrumental, filled with credible guitar parts, this definitely ended the show on a high.

Overall, Amber Run are positively a band that are consistently phenomenal when they play live as well as when they record music. Their authenticity as genuine musicians is revealed explicitly throughout their sets and their instrumentals are stupendous. Humble stage-presence is key as their gratitude to their fan base is evident when they address the audience in-between songs. Amber Run ensure that their sets are flawless and in terms of songwriting and vivacity, they will never cease to impress. 

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