It’s a young crowd at the Phoenix who greet the Reading bred 4-piece, The Amazons, on Wednesday 11th October. They released their debut self-titled record in May of this year, which has been described as “shout-it-to-the rooftops, punch-the sky-yell along at the top of your voice storm” by The Telegraph. They are embarking on a headline tour which sees them hitting spots all over the UK before heading off to places like Paris, New York and Brussels. This is their very first time in Exeter and a sold-out mix of slightly grungy looking students and the odd sixth former await them in what was set to be a sweaty evening of jumping around to eardrum bursting rock.
They are warmed up by support The Pale White, a Geordie three-piece who make their way through a set of stomping alt-rock tracks with deep, moody vocals taken from their EP of the same name. Even though lead singer Adam Hope’s swagger felt a little over-zealous at times, it’s a promising performance and brother Jack Hope gives his absolute all on the drums. Their opener ‘That Dress’ is a highlight of the set with brutally honest lyrics including “it’s not the best when you’re around, but I’ll make do”, and pulsating guitars that are reminiscent of bands like Kasabian.
The Amazons burst out with buoyant opener “Ultraviolet”, infusing the crowd with an instant energy, as frontman Matt Thomson calls out to the crowd “don’t you wanna, see inside my shell” elongating the last syllable with his youthful but resonant indie vocal. It’s a strong opening that sets the tone for a solid evening of uncompromising guitar-heavy rock.
They roll into “Stay With Me”, which feels like it was made to be played in a stadium with the crowd shouting back the euphoric “woah-oh-oh” of the chorus at the top of their lungs. It’s a little repetitive, but the sentiments are unpretentious and reflect the simple feeling of wanting to hold on to a good feeling for as long as possible, or at least until the 3-minute song is over.
The band then made their way through a set of indie anthems, following in the wake of bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen and Royal Blood, who are doing their best to show that even if the Gallagher brothers still aren’t speaking, proper British guitar-bands aren’t dead yet. What appeared to be genuine gleeful surprise when the crowd sang back a couple of guitar riffs to tracks from their new album, proved how this band are still rising up and up. This is after an already impressive year, which involved sets at Reading and Leeds festival and being tipped as the BBC’s Sound of 2017.
Thomson pauses to talk the crowd throughout but keeps it limited, letting the music do the talking. He describes what was apparently a very successful visit to Exeter’s own RAMM museum, and lets the fans know that this is pretty close to a hometown show for southwest-raised drummer Joe Emmett. He mostly uses the opportunity to show appreciation for support The Pale White, who are going to “take over the world”, a gesture which feels like it comes from genuine modesty and gratitude.
Newer track ‘Holy Roller’ with its rhythmic rolling guitar and casual lyricism gets a decent enough reception, but it’s the grungier 2017 hit ‘Black Magic’ that really gets the crowd bouncing and head-banging with its screeching guitar riffs. The lulling, infectious ‘In My Mind’ with its dark, grinding bassline and echoing falsetto vocals is another highlight. If their lyrics err on the side of unchallenging or formulaic, the strong guitar hooks on tracks like these are a seasoned mosher’s dream. You cannot help but feel like they could easily fill a bigger venue than the Phoenix.
After slowing down the pace with the slightly psychedelic ‘Something in the Water’. Seated at a keyboard, Matt comes out and handles the emotional “Palace” alone. It’s a rare moment of melancholy in the show, the heavy synthesised chimes of the keyboard echo around the venue, as he’s joined by Chris Alderton who fleshes out the tune with deep atmospheric guitar. It doesn’t get the crowd doing a clichéd slow wave in the air but they sing along to the heartfelt lyrics.
However, the Amazons are definitely at their best at their noisiest, with thick bass and screaming guitar loud enough to crack the ceiling. It’s the strong finish on fan-favourite ‘Junk Food Forever’ taken from their 2015 EP “Don’t You Wanna” that ends the gig on a perfect roaring high.
– Sarah Roberts
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