A year ago to the day, The Amazons struggled to sell 300 tickets to a show at OSLO in Hackney. Tonight, they’ve sold out The Forum. That’s 2300 people – and a year-on-year increase of 666%, if you’re counting.
Chances are, nobody in this Kentish Town landmark is. After all, there are more pressing matters, like being blown away by four young musicians with a one-way ticket to The O2 Arena stage.
A thrilling rock band with songs as hot as the van blazing on their debut album’s cover, the quartet’s success is definitely deserved, but certainly not overnight. Despite the rocket-to-the-top nature of the last 12 months, they’ve been plugging away since 2014, honing their singalong tunes and stagecraft along the way.
It shows. Frontman Matt Thomson is just as comfortable playing the chunky guitar riff of Burn My Eyes as he is Palace’s haunting piano melody, or leading the audience through some Freddie Mercury-style call and response.
But, to be fair, the singer doesn’t need to work as hard as he does. Most of the audience seem to know all the words, and don’t even need to be asked to fill in on lead vocals when Thomson steps back from the mic. Even between songs they’re all-in, chanting choruses or just melodies like a capacity crowd at a Saturday afternoon derby.
And by the time the Reading quartet reach the turbocharged Something In The Water, the moshpit in front of the stage has become a crowd surfer’s paradise. The venue security do their best to fish out the wave riders, but it’s an almost futile task as each successive power chord from guitarist Chris Alderton launches another punter onto the sea of bodies.
The band, backed by a striking X-shaped lighting rig with the raised drum kit at its centre, take all the adulation in their stride. While capturing the precision of their self-titled LP, they inject the familiar songs with a kinetic energy that can only come from live performance.
So the rhythm section of Elliot Briggs and Joe Emmett get a real workout during the torrential take on Raindrops and high-speed motorway chase Nightdriving. Alderton nimbly navigates the fluid licks of Holy Roller and gets his hands dirty on the heavy In My Mind. And the whole band play up the loud-quiet dynamics of songs like Little Something and Stay With Me, emphasising the contrasts in speed and emotion they’ve worked into the music.
But it’s their biggest hit, Black Magic, that shows the true might of The Amazons. With over 2000 people shouting along, the intensity ebbs and flows with the verses and choruses, before the pace quickens and Millions suddenly emerges. The transformation is seamless, the audience reaction fervent, and the switch back to Black Magic just as potent.
Those eight minutes of musical dexterity, fan interaction, and arena-sized choruses not only explain The Amazons’ current success but light the way to ever larger venues in their future.
The Amazons live at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town, 12 October 2017
Words by: Nils Van Der Linden. Nils runs the blog graffitipunctuated.com covering live music in London.
Photography by: Simon Reed. Simon has his own Music Photography website Musical Pictures: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk/