We’ve been following the career of Reading rock band The Amazons for years here at RockShot HQ. When their eponymous debut album dropped in 2017 and songs such as In My Mind, Junk Food Forever and Black Magic were peppering radio playlists up and down the country, our ears pricked up.
We were there when they were selling out intimate venues like Dingwalls, Camden Lock (capacity: 500).
The Amazons @ Dingwalls 12/04/17
We were there six months later when they were selling out less intimate venues like The Forum, Kentish Town (capacity: 2300).
The Amazons @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town
We were there the following summer at Victorious Festival when it rained so hard, the band had to shelter at the back of the stage for fear of becoming part of an unscheduled pyrotechnic display.
Victorious Festival 2018
Since then, The Amazons have released two more critically acclaimed studio albums; Future Dust in 2019 and How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? in 2022. The former was dark and brooding; heavier riffs abounded. The latter had a more accessible feel. Expansive choruses designed to be screamed in enormodomes.
That moment hasn’t arrived quite yet for The Amazons (though they did support Royal Blood through their UK arena tour in 2022), but you can’t help feeling it’s a level of adoration which is well within their sights.
Tonight, I catch them once again. We’re at Brighton Chalk, on the first night of a run of 11 dates through the UK that will culminate with a hometown gig at Reading University on December 14th.
It’s an early finish as a club night beckons and that means it’s an early start for tonight’s support Swim School, an indie pop/rock three-piece from Edinburgh. That early start means a comparatively sparse crowd and it’s a shame because Swim School take the opportunity to shine.
They’re a band with the self-confidence to be self-deprecating (they’ve previously described themselves as ‘Basically, Tesco Value brand Wolf Alice’) and it shows with an assured performance on the Chalk stage. They’re also a band that somehow manage to carve out a conventional sonic landscape out of just two guitars and a drum kit. The traditional route for a band missing a bassist or guitarist is for the solitary axe swinger to double all the parts an octave up or down; it’s a policy in those other bands that soon tires my ears and challenges my interest.
Swim School Brighton Chalk 011223-003
So how Swim School sound the way they do is hard to fathom, but the results are very pleasing. Singer Alice Johnson resides behind one of the guitars until the band play crowd pleaser Delirious, whereupon she patrols back and forth waving the mic and delivering a vocal in a style not dissimilar to Toyah Wilcox. Set closer See Red has the audience blinded by white strobes. Alanis Morissette could have knocked up a verse about it.
Swim School Brighton Chalk 011223-002
After a swish 30 minutes, Swim School walk off leaving guitars on the stage to feedback, as seemingly all angsty rock bands must; and they make a lot of friends (by the end it’s close to capacity) in the process. This is just as well as they let slip they’ve got a headline slot here next April.
Swim School Brighton Chalk 011223-001
At a very early for a headline act, 8.30pm, The Amazons come out. They play opening number Ready For Something in near complete darkness with a virtual absence of spot lighting. Through the gloom I make out that singer Matt Thompson is wearing shades. I’m honestly surprised he’s not bumping into things. He’s also wearing a sparkly jacket that’s just dying to be hit by some white light.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-001
Piercing the gloom stage left is bassist Elliot Briggs and to his far right, lead guitarist Chris Alderton bangs out the heavy riffs. The Amazons formed in 2014 when they were in their mid-teens and the line-up remained intact for eight years. But they were thrown a curveball in October last year when drummer Joe Emmett announced he was leaving the band. This officially leaves them a three-piece with a vacant drummer’s throne.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-013
Keeping the beats on this tour at least is George Le Page. To be honest, I had to look him up. The only George Le Page Google could find was an astonishingly beautiful male model. I rather churlishly dismissed it: “Well, it can’t be him!” Needless to say, it is him. I conclude if there is a God, it wouldn’t hurt if in future he could be a bit more equitable when dishing out diverse talents. My Venn Diagram of astonishingly beautiful, highly capable rock drummers currently has one entry. If you know any others please feel free to let me know.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-003
Ready For Something, 25 and Stay With Me (one song from each album, played in reverse order) get bashed out in no time and sadly it’s my cue to leave the photo pit. I find myself a spot behind the melee, sharing space with the people who spent too long in the pub.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-012
“Something tells me deep in my bones that this is going to be a fucking good night”, says Thompson, flicking some of his flame red mane out of his eyes; an act he has to repeat approximately every 45 seconds. Then the band play In My Mind and a sizeable proportion of the crowd in the sweet spot go absolutely bananas. We’re on the first floor here and it is appreciably moving up and down. I think about the vintage of the building and contemplate whether there might be any RAAC concrete beneath my feet.
There was a hint on social media ahead of the tour that we might be hearing new music and next up the band play Night After Night. It’s certainly one I’ve never heard before and it gives the floor an opportunity to recuperate. It has sweet backing vocals and a hook that would sit very nicely in your local rock radio station’s playlist.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-002
There’s only one appreciable gap in the music tonight whilst Matt addresses the crowd. We learn that it’s actually a hometown gig, as he moved to Brighton five days before Covid lockdown. He loves everything about the city except the seagulls: “They don’t add to the ecosystem”, he observes. A chant of “Seagulls!” (nickname of Brighton and Hove Albion FC) breaks out, which might not have been the intended reaction. Undeterred, the band launch Northern Star, and shortly thereafter, Matt forgets the words. “Been thinking about seagulls too much”, he says. This flushes out the seagulls chant again, though when it restarts it soon gives way to a mass swaying of arms as we collectively get swept up in what is a gorgeous ballad from the third album. It’s the sort of thing Robbie Williams would have happily had if someone hadn’t given him Angels first.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-006
There are loads of highlights tonight. The Mire and its segue into Doubt It is fantastic and the triumvirate close to the main set: Ultraviolet, Junk Food Forever and Black Magic results in euphoric community singing whilst returning the floor to the very edge of the performance envelope. It must be amazing to know you have three bangers like this in the locker to close out a performance.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-011
If I can pick one favourite moment from the night it has to be Georgia, the closing track on Future Dust. It dispenses with some of the more pronounced lead lines in favour of more jangly Americana and gives Chris Alderton a chance to flex his considerable musical muscles with some really fabulous extended guitar solos. At the close, he combines with Thompson as the two guitarists play off each other. This is what The Allman Brothers would have sounded like if they’d listened to a little more Led Zeppelin.
The Amazons Brighton Chalk 011223-008
When the band come back out, we find Matt has dispensed with the sparkly jacket to reveal an equally sparkly shirt beneath. At least it has some light on it now. Meanwhile, George Le Page fires up the familiar floor tom shuffle that signals Mother. It’s another one with a huge chorus and it generates an equally huge circle pit, encouraged by Thompson with a ‘spinning hand’ motion that I normally see reserved for extreme metal gigs. Mother takes a few twists and turns and closes out with a psychedelic interlude reminiscent of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.
On Future Dust, Mother segues into Fuzzy Tree and so it does here, tonight’s closing song as heavy as anything we hear tonight. We’re teased with more potential endings than Black Mirror: Bandersnatch before it finally comes to an end, and when it does the audience cheer so loud it will likely keep my ears ringing at least as long as the music will.
“We’ll be back soon with a new record”, says Matt shortly before the band leave the stage. For a baying audience desperate for more, you sense it cannot come soon enough.
The Amazons Winter tour continues until 14th December. Details of venues and ticket availability can be found on The Amazons website.
Live review of The Amazons at Brighton Chalk on 1 December 2023 by Simon Reed. Photography by Musical Pictures.