Although the headliners at Manchester Academy 2 were Amber Run, it was support band Meadowlark I wanted to see, their singles of the past year or so being among my favourite releases, Kate McGill’s winsome vocals accompanied by sparse music. Sadly, faulty traffic lights at Monk’s Heath and incompetent traffic management for roadworks in Manchester meant the trip to the Academy took over two hours, and I caught the last 25 seconds of their show. It was as big a disappointment as the night I schlepped up to Glasgow to watch Bruce Springsteen to see one song, and came out of the toilets to hear the final line and closing notes of that one song, The River.
Still, the night was not wasted as there was a second support and they were Island. (They write it ISLAND but that’s a trademark, not grammar). They were excellent. It’s usually hard to watch a 30-minute slot when you know no songs, but the time flew by. They play music that can only be called joyous, indie music with a sparkle. They had a hair thing going on, the rhythm section very hairy and the singer and guitarist less so. The music had lots of space, possibly because the drummer rarely took the boring hi-hat / snare / kick drum approach but kept the beat using the toms. Very enjoyable.
I’d already written the review in my head, basically support band blows away the headliners; Amber Run’s album is nice pop at best, played cleverly it’s true, but none of it really leaps out.
That early review had to be abandoned. Live, they’re impressive. The music might struggle to rise to the top under its own steam, but to see them play gives it extra dimension. They seem nice people and they’re genuinely good musicians.
Singer Joe Keogh looks the part, an easy stage presence and good looking in a Jim Morrison way. They clearly love making music and while their subtle songs lose a little at being played loud, live you can see what good musicians they are. And the crowd loved them — I’ve not seen so much love from a crowd since I saw Justin Currie from Del Amitri (in the same venue, funnily enough). As well as being musicians they can all sing and pulled off the a cappella Haze with aplomb.
Last time I saw an act whose songs slightly underwhelmed me but who was loved by his crowd and very impressive to watch live was Ed Sheeran — I saw him at Keele Uni just before he got big —so maybe great things await Amber Run.
All in all: a night that proved how enjoyable live music is; as Amber Run told the crowd, stop filming and watch the gig, live music is good.
Amber Run’s For A Moment, I Was Lost is out now. Meadowlark have two EPs out (Dual and Paraffin) and one on the way. Island’s A Place You Like EP is also out now.