Indie Rock Band gets an ‘Amen’ from Exeter for their honest vulnerability and melodic guitar riffs.
Amber Run truly hold nothing back when it comes to their concerts: already recognised for sharing raw, emotive and sometimes uncomfortable lyrics, lead singer Joshua ‘Joe’ Keogh, shared the bands personal and musical progression over the last five years in an intimate ninety minute show that left the crowd both wiping their eyes and moving their feet, sometimes all at once.
The small student’s union initially struggled to hold a fanbase, with many claiming they’d only heard Amber Run songs in passing but left with strong ambitions to follow the band’s career after experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the evening, that represented the hardships and triumphs of life itself: mirroring each of Amber Run’s albums.
Their debut album, ‘5am’ offered sombre notes of comfort, sharing troubles of self-doubt and internal conflictions’; their second album ‘For a Moment, I was Lost’ gave hope, with philosophical questions brought to life with quiet riffs and contagious choruses. Yet their new release ‘Philophobia’ presents a breakthrough of confidence, both personally and musically, swapping dark beats for melodic rock tunes: whilst continuing to question life’s purpose.
Their ‘Philophobia Tour’ intertwines all three albums but wastes no time in plugging their latest single, walking on stage to the pop rock beat of ‘Neon Circus’ before quickly switching to crowd pleasing classics from ‘5am’, their best-known album, climbing to 39 in the UK charts upon release.
After giving the crowd an opportunity to sing along to upbeat tunes, in a haze of soft lilac lighting, the bass fades and the stark, vulnerability of the house lights indicates an immediate transition to some of Amber Run’s more melancholic singles.
‘In true Amber Run style, we’ll begin with the most depressing […] but this is the song I think I’m the most proud of because it hurts the most every time I play it’ declares Joe, taking the crowd through the emotional turmoil of coming to terms with his late grandfather’s death, spoken softly, with his hands shaking. The quiet melodies accompany his words and fade into the heart wrenching ‘Amen’, written as a Eulogy to the man Joe clearly idolized his entire life. Nobody in the crowd dared to sing or even hum along, as they watch his gentle performance of their popular single. It’s followed by ‘5am’, a reminiscent ballad about regrets of past relationships.
Suddenly, sniffles and quick blinks from the crowd are quickly forgotten, as the band swap the house lights for sunny oranges and reds, accentuating the new pop beat of new releases, ‘Carousel’ and ‘What Could Be as Lonely as Love’, telling the tale of new love through chants of cheesy lines, like ‘ [I] can’t get enough of you babe’.
This optimism cannot last long: a sudden, sharp transition to ‘The Darkness has a Voice’ alludes the audience, confusing them with colourful lighting and a heavy base. This is a stark contrast to the song’s subject matter: the harsh truths of suffering with insomnia and using drugs and drink as a crutch.
Aware that their new album has been out a mere few weeks, Amber Run return back to their classics, giving the audience and long-standing fans a chance to dance and sing along to their best-known lyrics. Joe breaks the chain of back-to-back anthems with a tribute to Exeter, relying on old anecdotes of earlier performances in Exeter to pretend their show was about to come to a close.
Their encore was embraced lovingly by their newfound fans with substantial booing when the band truthfully admitted the concert was really coming to a close.
The entire night offered optimism and gratitude in every verse, regardless of subject or tone. Witnessing such strong friendships together tackling mental illness, loss, love and the difficulties of life gave the crowd a sense of belonging: it’s difficult to feel low when there are hundreds of strangers beside you, brought together for an evening of cathartic expression.
The night resembled nothing of the old Joe Keogh, who on tour in 2017, seemed lost and vulnerable, quiet and spent the entire night in Manchester talking about giving up on the band altogether. Witnessing the positive changes of the last few years, whatever they may be, is something quite special. He embraces the audience now with honest anecdotes, like old friends at the pub, and the crowd loved it.
Should you find yourself curious to witness this aura of optimism now radiating from the three-piece Indie Rock band, Amber Run will certainly not disappoint you.