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The Amazons – Live in Nottingham Review

The setlist was curated with both crowd favourites and new-album deep-cuts

The Amazons – Live in Nottingham 

The Amazons are an indie band from Reading, and they’re an artist that the indie scene has taken as their own. The four-piece became the first band to win the Prospect Music Award in 2017 and has ever since grown more and more in popularity. The band have released three studio albums and all have been pretty good and have made some euphoric hits such as Black Magic and Ultraviolet.

I’ve been a fan of the band for a while but will admit that critically, their music isn’t groundbreaking by any means. It’s very similar to a lot of British indie-rock bands of the moment, and their third studio album released just a few weeks ago How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? is evidence for my point. A lot of the songs from that record are ones that I’m a fan of, but I am aware that they do have these common indie music tropes. I’m also aware from when I saw them five years ago that they’re not the greatest live band either, but I hope that tonight, they can get the crowd going out and would have improved on their live-ability five and a half years later. 

Tonight, The Amazons’ show at Nottingham’s Rock City was a mixture of both positive and negative experiences. Let’s start with the positives, and the staging was mostly pretty great. The lighting design was excellent and provoked a sense of euphoria within the venue. It was pretty basic, with a white cloth (which we’ll come back to later) with black “windows” as a backdrop, but it worked very well and was incredibly effective.

The setlist was curated with both crowd favourites and new-album deep-cuts, which is what would be expected if a band had just released a new record just over a month before their tour started. But it was made so that the new material would mostly all appear in the first half of the show and then all the big crowd favourites would appear in the second half, and it showed, and I think some of the problems from the show were caused by the setlist curation, for reasons that are about to become apparent. 

So let’s get one thing straight, I like The Amazons, I think they’re a great band and I want them to succeed in every single way, but as a journalist, I have to be honest and say that the first half of their set was pretty terrible. Despite his (mostly) great crowd interaction, frontman Matt Thomson sounded vocally off quite a lot of the time, with some notes he was singing sounding absolutely dire, and when he wasn’t bad, he was at best above average. The band chemistry was alright and had some sections within the first half that were great, such as the ending of 25 and the slower section of One By One, but the real problem that I found is that to me, their songs live sounded like BTEC versions of the mastered recordings. I’m unsure whether it was the instruments they used or whether they toned down the BPM, but it came across as though The Amazons were a band that formed just a few months ago in university and are still trying to navigate a live performance. I could maybe pardon that if it was a newer artist, but The Amazons formed over eight years ago, and to still sound like a brand new band getting up on their feet was completely incomprehensible. The ideas they had were brilliant, especially the introduction to the show, and I could tell what they were trying to go for throughout the set, but they couldn’t fathom how to execute those ideas a lot of the time, which wasn’t great. Another thing I didn’t particularly like was that for Northern Star, the band’s white cloth lit up to denote stars, adding to the “squirty cheese” the guys were going for (a genuine quote said by Thomson during this section), and instead of it looking cheesy, it came across as tacky and didn’t work at all.

Having said that, just after the second half of the set, the band got their shit together and performed excellently. The ideas that they had for the show they executed very well, the band chemistry was flawless and their performance of Mother was certainly very strong and was a big highlight for me. The best part of the show however was when the band performed a stripped-back version of Nightdriving, which is exactly how a stripped-back performance should be. This showed me that they are something special, something which was missing during the first half of the show. Was this second half groundbreaking? Not by any means, but they certainly pulled it out of the bag, and this was evident with their finale of Black Magic.

Overall, I thought that The Amazons set was incredibly varied in quality. Starting off the set as a mediocre band with multiple flaws and lacklustre songs and ending on a performance that corrected all of the wrongs we had been a witness to. The highs were very high, but the lows were significantly low, and that first half was completely unforgivable and was very hard to watch, to the point where if I was a paying member of the public, I would’ve been close to walking out, but they came back fighting, showing us who exactly The Amazons are and that I loved. It’s just a shame to see the rest of the set not living up to the standard of that remarkable second half.

Ranking: ⭐⭐

Setlist:

  1. How Will I Know?
  2. Ready For Something 
  3. Ultraviolet 
  4. 25
  5. There’s A Light
  6. In My Mind
  7. One By One
  8. Say It Again
  9. Northern Star
  10. Wait For Me
  11. Doubt It
  12. Mother
  13. Nightdriving
  14. Stay With Me
  15. Junk Food Forever

 

Encore:

  1. Bloodrush
  2. Black Magic