Amber Run – Green Door Store, Brighton – 14th May 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

The Green Door Store sees the return of Amber Run to live action, in a special show in celebration of their new EP, The Assembly. Following the slightly more muted response to last year’s For A Moment, I Was Lost compared to their debut 5AM, this was a perfect night to show that their focus and potential remains undimmed. Indeed, it potentially heralds a whole new era for the band.

With cheers from the crowd preceding them as they enter the room, the five members of Amber Run somehow cram themselves onto the tiny stage. After an atmospheric intro of hums and fuzz, they launch straight into a crowd-pleasing ‘Pilot’. Grinning at each other and at familiar faces in the crowd, there’s a genuine warmth washing over the room straight away. What could be a big closing number acts as the perfect warm-up instead. “I don’t want to be the centre of anything, just a part of something bigger,” sings Joshua Keogh, a call to arms that remains as potent now as it did back in 2015. As the audience bellows it back, it is apparent that it is a shared worldview.

Ostensibly an EP launch show, Amber Run are clever in how they pitch the show. The main set is a great and fairly equal mix of the first two albums, welcoming this group back into the loving embrace of an audience who can’t quite seem to believe their ears and eyes at bagging one of the hottest tickets all month. Likewise, Keogh seems to be blown away at points by the response – regularly breaking into the biggest smile and simply remarking, “beautiful” at the soft singalong that the serene, gliding ‘Fickle Game’ provokes from the crowd. Joking that he is normally banned from talking between songs, he instantly jinxes it as a false start to ‘5AM’ leaves the band in giggles. Aside from that, there is little sign of any rustiness as the group seem fighting fit and match-ready for the next tours.

The sound stretches the venues’ system to the max, ‘Noah’ is propelled on a thumping drum beat with Keogh’s vocals soaring distantly into the sky. It’s a song that would lift the biggest stages, so in this intimate room it became something epic. ‘Wastelands’ sees couples smooching initially, before its crashing crescendo takes everything in a new direction – whereas ‘Heaven’ performs a similar trick in the opposite direction with amazing harmonies at its climax. By the time they reach the finale of the main set, it has become something of a victory parade – a lap of glory in front of admiring fans. However, the best is yet to come, as those who witnessed the encore would confirm.

Describing the three new tracks online, the band spoke of “extremely personal songs that we wanted to get out into the world in the same moment they were conceived”. The stripped back performance, just vocals and keyboard, shone a spotlight on just how personal these songs are, also showcasing Keogh’s vocals, which are at a level not seen before. ‘The Weight’ was beautiful, noticeably closer to pure folk than the band have sounded before, all carried perfectly by those exquisite vocals. ‘Heaven Is A Place’, based on a conversation with a homeless man, again seems to carry extra weight when stripped of instruments, but ‘Amen’ was the true showstopper.

Noticeably emotional, Keogh stands alone on stage and delivers what is, frankly, one of the most perfect performances I have seen in a long time. The subject matter (dealing with grief) already lends the song a gravitas, but live it transforms and transcends. The power and emotion that Keogh brings as he sings the final repeats of ‘amen, amen, amen’ is almost too painful to watch and I spot more than one person wiping away tears. If this is a sign of what the new material will bring, then we are about to enter a truly exciting period for the band.

Jamie MacMillan