Crowd-pleasing set list in pitch-perfect harmony
"GOOD Evening. We are Judas Priest," quips Sel Balamir, only to be somewhat taken aback by the whoops, cheers and demands for Breaking the Law that this elicits.
Amplifier have always baffled the pigeonholing fraternity, which might have been a career hindrance but has done wonders for their creativity and won them the broadest of audiences. They've been described variously as purveyors of space rock, progressive metal and alt-rock, none of which really hit the mark. New album Echo Street even sees them retreat slightly from rocking out in favour of gentler material characterised by gorgeous, CSN-style three-part harmonies. As if to confuse matters further, the clean-cut Mancunians' matching outfits (all black with natty octopus logo shirts) make them resemble one of those Factory Records acts that the NME used to swoon over back in the Eighties.
The ever-expanding line-up now is permanently augmented by former Oceansize guitarist Steve Durose. It's also a relief to see Amplifier joined onstage by occasional collaborator and beardy support act Charlie Barnes on keyboards, guitar and additional percussion. Barnes's own brand of modishly raw singer/singwritery emoting was so whiny and fragile that one feared he might have sloped off to a quiet corner for a little cry. They ease us gently into the new material, with the likes of The Wheel demonstrating the clearest continuum with the unapologetic bombast of 2011's self-released double-album masterwork, The Octopus. A massive technical malfunction after Motorhead (not that one) saps momentum, but they recover magnificently with the quintessential Amplifier song, Interstellar: a groove-driven epic constructed around a gargantuan chorus by Durose and Balamir's duelling guitars, with lyrics that even Matt Bellamy might have rejected for being too cosmic.
By contrast, set-closer Where the River Goes, the stand-out track from Echo Street, sees them working just as comfortably on a more intimate scale, its pitch perfect harmony vocals still underpinned by an adventurous musical sensibility. First encore, the sweetly Marillion-esque Matmos, is delivered with rather more oomph than the recorded version. Astonishingly, two hours have now flown by and the curfew looms. Cramming all of the crowd-pleasing Airborne into five minutes is like trying to repack a parachute while wearing oven gloves, but somehow they pull it off.
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