“The entire [Stereo Honey] set was hauntingly atmospheric”
Opening the night Stereo Honey, who were well received judging by the pockets of the crowd singing along to every beautifully crooned word flying gracefully, almost transcendentally from lead singer Pete Restrick’s throat. It would be amiss to assume that there was anyone left by the end who wouldn’t count themselves as a Stereo bee, (patent pending).
The entire set was hauntingly atmospheric and when playing recent single What Makes A Man, the silhouettes became as much a part of the song, and indeed the set as a whole, as the lyrics themselves. The song, about a man whose life slowly starts to unravel, a man who clings to the regressive fantasy that is ‘masculinity’ — the same masculinity that results in mental health problems and high suicide rates — seemed mirrored in these dazzling lights. The men on stage, hidden in the darkness, seemed reflective of the contrast between the hidden interior of ‘men’, the deteriorating mental health, and the outward image portrayed due to societal restraints and pressure. The golden beams, then, towards the end, seemed to symbolise this stigma being brought to light, with society starting to take note.
Similarly, with new single You Are A Monster the mellow yellow lights shining behind were reminiscent of those halcyon days, basking in sunshine and beauty — in a song about depression and hopelessness, perhaps ‘the other side’, the idea of happiness — while its change to blood-red, almost sanguine light, reflects violence and blood, or the self-blame and hate that often follows depression…Or perhaps it was none of this. Perhaps it was just some pretty lights, and this is all merely imaginative leaps on our part to make the live show more than it was.
“Every song of [Stereo Honey] was somehow both immense and introspective, confrontational and confessional… something other worldly.”
But that was the beauty of their set. With the crisp guitar and the almost heavenly falsetto, it was easy to lose yourself, to drift away and simply float, anchorless and almost vacant. The songs washed over the crowd like a gentle tide, carrying away with it the crowd’s thoughts, and worries, and stress. Every song of theirs was somehow both immense and introspective, confrontational and confessional. The songs themselves are perfection but live they become something more, something otherworldly.
Amber Run emerged on stage to the studio version of Philophobia opener Leader Countdown introducing them to burst straight into Neon Circus, the two sliding in sync a-la album. With small bursts of distortion on Joe’s vocals and Joe’s infectiously cheery grin splitting his face and the fevered shouting of the lyrics from the legions of predominantly students who tore themselves away from the allure of alcohol to attend the indie-music haven — it all signalled one thing.
The show had begun.
“The studio version of Fickle Game is characterised by soulful vocals and beautiful harmonies, with a gentle piano track underneath, that slowly builds, but live, it’s another matter.”
Flying straight through the classic, fan-favourite Just My Soul Responding — with the final repeated verse becoming a slow, acapella shadow of its rocky, studio self — and past both the rock-fuelled, ferociously powerful For A Moment, I Was Lost tracks of Insomniac and Stranger — again, featuring delightfully surprising acoustic versions of the choruses — and it was time for Joe to finally take a breather and talk to the crowd a little before Fickle Game, a gentle number that escalated quickly a la Anchorman. The studio version is characterised by soulful vocals and beautiful harmonies, with a gentle piano track underneath, that slowly builds, but live, it’s another matter. It was an intense song from start to finish, due to its slow, yet still somehow sudden transition from soulful to heavy — and it even had a mild bit of headbanging from Joe! “We chose Exeter particularly to have a good time. Are you ready to have a fucking good time?!” A rather cliche question from any other band but coming from Joe it seemed sincere.
“Pete Restrick [of Stereo Honey] and Joe Keogh [of Amber Run] singing [Amber Run track] Affection was something special… To say anything else would be to take away from it; it was simply a masterpiece.”
Amber Run chose a career spanning set delighting the audience with tracks including Pilot- the title track of their second EP. So diverse the set that we were even offered No One Gets Out Alive from the only track played current album Philophobia that isn’t a single. Upon the band playing Affection we were privileged with Pete Restrick inviting “like the most ridiculous voice I have heard in my entire life to join me for this song”. Pete Restrick and Joe Keogh singing Affection was something special. Their voices together blended perfectly, harmonies building on one another until it was just a stream of beauty. To say anything else would be to take away from it; it was simply a masterpiece.
Before playing Amen, Joe explained “This is the eulogy I wish I had written for [my grandpa’s] funeral; this is Amen.”
Before playing Amen, Joe explained “I’ve actually been speaking about this song quite a lot today, in interviews. What is the song that personally we’re most proud of creating, as a band? Obviously, most of them, otherwise what’s the point! But song wise, this is the one I’m most proud of — the one that hurts the most when I play it. We’ve been on the road for about a month and a half, with around the same length to go; on a tour like this, a year or two ago, I found out that my grandpa died. The funeral fell on an off day; instead of watching Netflix, or chilling like I usually would, I went to Liverpool to attend his funeral. My grandma gave me a poem about Bob Marley to read — not that I’m not a fan (weak chuckles from his rapt audience at this point — finding it funny yet afraid to break the spell) — but I was there reading it and the words felt hollow. So, I went away to write the speech I should have and found the four easiest chords to go along with them. This is the eulogy I wish I had written for his funeral; this is Amen”., almost violently raw, but beautiful nonetheless. It must be hard to ever follow on from such an emotional song as Amen, but 5am is possibly the only logical choice. It is equally as painful to listen to, and it’s equally as heart-wrenching. This was pure, unadulterated talent and it was simply Amber Run’s time. The rest of the show might belong to the people buying the tickets, but this was theirs.
“We’re going to bring it back up now, because we said we wanted everyone to have a GOOD time.” Cue Carousel, the first single of Philophobia, and arguably the most coherently and cohesively heaviest of their songs it starts as it means to go on, and it goes hard before What Could Be As Lonely As Love — Joe’s self-confessed favourite song.
“Joe took the role of the prophet, leading His people in the chorus, right up until the end.”
Finishing the new Philophobia era the band plared The Darkness Has A Voice before starting “We’re gonna play some oldies. The deal we strike with these, not that we don’t like them, is that you sing them with us.” With Joe standing alone at the front of the stage strumming his guitar and he began singing a slowed-down first verse of Noah, while signalling the crowd to get louder and louder. Joe took the role of the prophet, leading His people in the chorus, right up until the end.
Upon declaration that “We’re going to thank you one last time. This is going to be our last song” receiving truly colossal boos, Joe backtracked “Jesus. This may or may not be our last song!”, to cheers and laughter. We won the band over and were given Wastelands as our prize- a beautiful song, if rather depressing in its lyrics.
Then Amber Run ‘finished’ and ‘left’. Joe’s emergence into the crowd, laughing in amazement, was easily a highlight of the set. “It’s not often we get booed for saying we have our last song, only here in Exeter — It’s fitting, really. I think Exeter was our first ever encore — we didn’t have enough tunes to play an encore, so I’m pretty sure we just played Noah again. We don’t have that problem any more, we have three records. I think! And in true Amber Run fashion, we thought we’d start with the most depressing”. The band then flew — or rather, traipsed carefully — straight into the first single from For A Moment, Haze. The harmonies for this were even better live, particularly with tonal trickery towards the end, with the harmonies descending as the lead rises. Unsurpisingly the encore featured I Found which shot them to cult fame, it’s laughable that Joe felt it necessary to state “I absolutely promise that there are other fucking videos online out there… If you want to video it, that’s great, just know there are plenty of videos out there [online]. We want you to be here with us, and to sing with us.”
“From start to finish, was utterly perfect- a match made in heaven.”
Finishing with No Answers Amber Run set themselves apart from their contemporaries, with its pained singing in the verses transcending to screamed vocals towards the end — it’s a perfect end for the show. With fluctuating blue and red lights throughout resembling sirens sent to stop the dangerously good performance, and an extended outro that devolved into what was simply just the epitome of rock music. From start to finish, was utterly perfect- a match made in heaven.