Sometimes a band whose music you love does not quite deliver when they play it live. The Amazons, however, are definitely not that band. On the third night of their huge 12-date UK tour, they played Manchester Academy’s main stage to a packed audience, and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
Looking back at the setlist, I was surprised to find that they played nine out of the 11 songs on their very lengthily named new album, How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me?. I hadn’t realised the setlist was so HWIKIHWFM?-heavy, but they interspersed new tracks amongst just the right amount of older bangers to keep the audience entertained.
They started out with two of the singles from HWIKIHWFM? – ‘How Will I Know?’ and ‘Ready for Something’ – to warm up the crowd, before playing the classic ‘Ultraviolet’ from their self-titled first album. This was followed by another from the new album, and then ‘In My Mind’, also from their first album. The crowd loved it, finally getting rowdy enough to start mosh pits in the centre.
We were lucky to get to hear an extra song, as they had apparently decided just before they went on stage that they would bless us with ‘25’, a high-energy track from their second album Future Dust. It broke up a run of four tracks from the new album, which I think was a good call for the Manchester crowd – the people around me all seemed to love the old stuff but, judging from the quieter reactions to the new songs, they had not necessarily listened to the new album.
Aside from the last minute addition of ‘25’, it seemed as though they changed their setlist according to the cities they played, as they added a well-received acoustic cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, in homage to Manchester’s music scene (Joy Division are actually from Salford, not Manchester itself, but that’s just pedantry).
This was after they played ‘Nightdriving’, which diehard fans will know they rarely play live, despite years of fans begging for it on the band’s Discord server. ‘Nightdriving’ was acoustic, with lead guitarist Chris Alderton swapping his electric guitar for a banjo, and drummer Josef Emmett descending from his throne to play the tambourine. It was quite sweet to see all four of them huddled round two microphones, playing one of their oldest songs.
You can really tell the band love each other, their music, and their fans. Lead singer Matt Thomson emphasised how glad he was to be performing live again, with the band doing their first headline tour since the world locked down.
I was a little worried that this gig wouldn’t match up to their last headline tour in 2019, because their new album is, by nature, less heavy and more romantic than their previous two albums, but the new songs really came alive on stage.
The alteration in sound came from Matt writing some of the songs on HWIKIHWFM? about his experience with having to do long distance with his American girlfriend during the pandemic. As well as that, the eight-week US tour the band did right before lockdown “really influenced [them] musically”, and this American influence was made explicit by the addition of harmonica to a few songs, courtesy of American Joshua Speers, who was supporting them onstage with an extra guitar.
This was the fourth time I have seen The Amazons live, and this gig was the best yet. Despite their new music being slightly less heavy, it was still everything you’d want from a rock concert and the new songs worked really well live. It says all you need to know when you can emerge from a gig covered in other people’s sweat and pints of beer, and yet still be on an adrenaline rush, smiling ear to ear.
The Amazons continue their UK tour until October 20, so you can find tickets to their other shows here.