“We are Amber Run!” beamed Joe Keogh to the audience. “We are your friends!”
As Joe, Tom, and Henry walked from the stage – a room packed with warmth was left in their wake. Most gigs at Rock City are special; it’s a special venue steeped in history, after all. While the compact wings and balcony lends itself to creating an intimate atmosphere, the main room also houses up to three thousand fans – it’s a recipe for gig success. But no gig has left me feeling quite the same as Amber Run. At 10pm on Saturday night, Rock City was glowing.
Amber Run are a Nottingham success story. Having left the University during their second year, they wasted little time in showing the world what they could do. They created a great bond with the city that birthed them, and a loyal fan-base formed, always behind them. Now having just released their third album Philophobia, they are truly paying back the people of Nottingham. Strikingly, the show was not sold out, and in truth it felt a few hundred off at least. Perhaps even more interestingly, the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve felt. Fans seemed to lose themselves in the final few tracks, and jubilantly cried for one more song once the set drew to a close in a manner I had not observed before. This show was brimming with love from start to finish.
Having spoken to Joe a few weeks ago, I was expecting plenty of the new album, a few tracks from sophomore record For A Moment, I Was Lost, but very few from debut album 5AM. Maybe playing to the city that supported them from day one brought it home for them, as we were treated to a mixture of all three albums in perfect balance. Amber Run are far from the band they were in 2015, but they looked more at home now playing old favourites Just My Soul Responding, 5AM, and Noah, than they did five years ago.
As for the new material, I was pleasantly surprised. Initially I was apprehensive to hear What Could Be as Lonely as Love. A track so clearly inspired by Talking Heads, I feared I’d witness an imitation rather than an inspired performance. However, it was a joy to watch Joe enjoy himself so much on stage. Additionally, opening with Leader Countdown and Neon Circus was fantastic; I could be forgiven for thinking I was at the O2 watching Muse rather than Amber Run in Rock City. In my opinion, this theatrical opening provided a hearty and needed dose of showmanship to the evening.
"No matter what is in store for Amber Run over the next few years, they’ll always remain special to Nottingham, and Nottingham to them."
Additionally, tracks from second album For A Moment, I Was Lost sounded phenomenal. The band’s maturation over the past few years was visible in their performance, and I found myself genuinely impressed at how tight the vocals were for softer tracks like Fickle Game and Haze. In our chat, Joe mentioned that playing some of the older, more raw tracks can feel like painfully picking at an open wound, but again they handled delicate songs like Amen with ease, and kindly dedicated the track to their former lighting technician Brian, who had recently passed away.
It’s probably worth mentioning this for a bit of colour, but Amber Run (at Rock City with Saint Raymond, February 2015) was my first ‘proper’ gig. Obviously, I was bowled over like any new music fan would be, and that night no doubt played a huge part in my future music tastes and love for live music. But it was moments like Amen on Saturday that made the band seem big. It’s not about selling the biggest arenas and getting every last record off the shelf, it’s the bond formed with the people that put them on the pedestal that really speaks volumes. Whether it’s Joe’s relentless spinning on stage, or the 45-year old man next to me crying out for one last song, or a touching tribute to a lost friend of the band, the whole evening oozed warmth and passion.
No matter what is in store for Amber Run over the next few years, they’ll always remain special to Nottingham, and Nottingham to them.