Live Review: Amber, Bodega (10/10/13)

Around a year ago, the fresh-faced Amber played Nottingham’s own Bodega, putting in, in their eyes, a less than stellar performance (to rework their perhaps more colourful words).

Walking in to interview the boys (Joe Keogh – Vocals / Guitar, Will Jones – Lead Guitar, Henry Wythe – Keyboard, Tom Sperring – Bass and Felix Archer – Drums, they all also sing backing vocals minus Felix), I couldn’t have had a better insight into their world: a house full of mates-come-supporters by the time we had finished. It really seems that the Bucks fivesome, who have previously experimented together with other bands, are just regular blokes who happen to be living the dream as up and coming musicians.

It would be fair to say that their tumultuous success over the last year, and even just the last week maybe hasn’t quite settled in yet. Nevertheless, the confident decision to leave the university sphere behind for stardom reflects the ‘fearless’ nature of Amber as frontman Joe suggests is highlighted in their iconic lion-head logo.

Here, it is nice to note that an old schoolmate created their EP artwork in the hopes that they can say to their circle of friends and fans “you were part of this”. From this, it isn’t hard to see the humble ethos that runs through Amber, who recently signed to RCA and Sony records in what has been “3 months of madness”. This seems like somewhat of an understatement when considering that the offer of an American tour among other shows is on the table, suggesting that Amber will, shortly, have an “international aspect” to their repertoire. Truly, in the words of Amber, “the next year is going to be absolutely unbelievable”.

But how unbelievable was their headline show at Bodega going to be? As a collective, the band contend that they haven’t really hit the “gritty gig scene” yet, having recently played the BBC introducing stage at Reading and Leeds festival and Nottingham playhouse, hence why Will says “that’s why tonight is so important…it’s our first proper gig”.

Building up to their headline show, they have also spent a lot of time in the studio which really gave a fresh feel to their act with new songs like ‘Spark’. But to return to the show itself, I entered early to Nottingham’s own Bodega which hosted an open-mic night downstairs and, for those who aren’t familiar either with the venue or the act, Amber’s support act Rhodes in the ‘attic’ room. By the time the band had entered the building, just minutes before their set due to managerial instruction to keep the mystery alive, the room they would be playing was already nicely packed back to the tables at the back.

To the rising intro track, Amber stepped onto Bodega’s small stage and quickly geared up. Note: the Bodega can be a rather scathing venue as the small stage creates an intimate environment, where the crowd can still be heard between songs and a minimalist light show really serves to focus on the band’s talents alone. Tonight, it seemed that the some hundred or more crowd members were truly in the presence of talented, and indeed passionate, musicians.

From the first note played, Amber exploded: jumping, swaying and moving as one. Speaking of one however, it is clear that any member of Amber could engage the audience or hold a song on their own, visible in Will’s guitar solos, Felix’s body-moving tom-tom beats and keyboardist Henry holding the vocals near the end of song ‘Hurricane’.

A 40-odd minute set absolutely flew by as Amber built the crowd up with a blend of indie-rock and created a lull with more intimate songs, even releasing brand new material which really served to highlight the incredible range and highly listenable voice of Amber’s frontman. Something else which truly impressed me was the fact that not a single note was played wrongly, nor were there any technical difficulties as Amber, in my eyes (or ears) had the best balance of levels I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.

To mirror the sense that Amber were building constantly towards something at the end of their non-stop set, I believe there is an apt parallel that it should be the ending note of this article. Amber, significantly, are on the brink of or perhaps at a climax in their career and what better way to end their set than with their insanely catchy hit ‘Noah’, which everyone had been waiting for. Having received a lot of radio time over summer and being accompanied by a video I could go into detail for a while, it is perhaps more direct to say simply that: Noah. Popped. Off. I do not remember seeing a single member of the crowd not jumping excitedly or singing “my name is Noah and the sea is my home”.

To end simply, and cheekily, in the words of frontman Joe (though I could’ve chosen any number of inspiring responses, note: this was after the interview had concluded) – “we’re gonna be huge”. From learning about their trajectory over the past months and seeing their captivating performance last night, I defy anyone to challenge this. We knew them back when.

Harry Patte-Dobbs

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