Nottingham gave the world Robin Hood. The next best thing? It is also where you can trace the origins of Amber Run. The Brit trio can be best described as soul infused alt-pop rock garnished with emotive lyrics and vocals thanks to the frontman Joe Keogh.
Post the release of the debut EP 5 am in 2015, the band experienced a double whammy: dropped by a major label and drummer leaving the band. Following the necessary soul-searching, birthed For a Moment I was Lost in 2017. The album was considerably stripped down, with Haze being a personal favourite. 2019 September brought along the third release Philophobia (fear of falling in love) that has been revered by both fans and critics.
They were in town at The Horseshoe, as part of their world tour supporting the aforementioned release.
who got the party started (the opener)
Often singer-songwriters as opening acts end up playing to half empty rooms that are too indifferent to care. But if you are as soulful as Jordan MacKampa, then that’s a different story. The Coventry-raised London based MacKampa was greeted to an almost full room. Not bad considering the man’s first gig in Toronto. Yet to be an indie darling this side of the Atlantic, Mackampa’s poet-esque tunes have already garnered multi-million streams on Spotify, and the faithful gathered were eating up every ounce of the gentle voice. Unfortunately, as is often the case with mellow acts playing in a bar, Mackampa’s mild-mannered set was at times plagued by overpowering bar chatter. But, those paying attention may have found a batch of new songs to cozy up to this winter by the fireplace while sipping on hot beverage of their choice.
this is what you came for (the headliner)
There are million ways to get your 15 seconds of fame. But, to grow a following for the long haul needs something more substantive than a gimmick. Within the first few minutes of the set, it was clear: Amber Run was all substance, no gimmicks.
The live sound was exceptionally balanced as the band was zigzagging through their 3 album discography. No one instrument outshined the other. They were all in unison supporting the powerhouse that is Joe Keogh’s vocals. Minus the odd guitar solos and drum intros, his vocals took the center stage for most of the set*, and so they should. The frontman’s pipes are why you got goosebumps during Stranger or were mesmerized during Dark Bloom. In years of concert going experience at the Horseshoe, I had never experienced a crowd as engrossed as it was during the emotional prelude by Keogh for the song Amen about his grandfather’s death. There was absolute silence, and good on Toronto for being respectful to the vulnerability on stage. Following the poignant section of the set, Nottingham’s finest delivered the hits (Noah, Sparks) with equal oomph and closing out the encore with I Found and No Answers.
Keogh couldn’t stop thanking the crowd for their support. Yet, for the auditory bliss that Toronto received that night, truthfully, we are the ones eternally grateful.
*except that time an on-stage proposal stole the spotlight for few seconds