Situated off the beaten track, the courtyard outside the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham is certainly one of the few places I don’t mind queueing to get into a show. With a few benches, umbrellas with patio heaters and the public bar everything adds up for a relaxed atmosphere leading up to the early 6pm doors.
Up first tonight are hard rock band Santa Cruz, and looking around the venue it is clear a good percentage of the swelling early crowd are here for this sleazy Finnish quartet. Their set was short but brimming energy while they powered through seven of their best known tracks. Singer “Archie” Kuosmanen plays the quintessential hair metal frontman with his soaring attitude filled vocals delivered while leaning right over the crowd, foot on the barrier. First impressions are the sound guys have been earning their coin tonight as the guitar work from Johnny & Middy were crisp with the bass and kick drum deep and punchy. The short set was met well by the crowd who sung along whenever Archie held the mic out, with dancing aplenty front to back. This was my first time seeing Santa Cruz live and I am certainly inclined to catch them on a headline tour now!
With the atmosphere already building from the blinding Santa Cruz set, it seems like no time passes at all until Swedish metal outfit Engel take the stage. A quick glance back through the crowd and it seems we’ve lost some folks who were here for the opening act, but scores of fans are still streaming into the venue. Engel are much heavier than Santa Cruz were, but infused with the heavy rhythm guitar work there is some electro synth work which will no doubt appeal to the Amaranthe fans. For the first few songs the microphone of frontman Mikael Sehlin were sadly set quite low, meaning his vocal range which mixes raw power and melodies got overpowered by the hard hitting guitars. The showmanship from the band more than made up for it as they lined the stage and got the crowd singing along to the chorus of one track, and fists raised as they played their farewell track. Engel played a quality live show in their own right but found themselves slightly overshadowed by the more flamboyant opening act.
Completing the all Scandinavian lineup, the arrival of Amaranthe is marked by the electro intro, and for a small is venue the pumped up crowd sure made a lot of noise as the band took to the stage. Normally the Rescue Rooms stage has ample room for the band but as each member of the six piece band lined up on the stage it started to feel real cosy as they powered through opener ‘Digital World’ and straight into ‘Hunger’.
Fans of Amaranthe will already know the band employs three dedicated vocalists to great effect on the recorded material, and it also works surprisingly well on stage. From the growly vocals from Henrik Englund, through to the cleaner emotive sounds of Jake E on to the passionate yet powerful voice of Elize Ryd each singer works seamlessly with the other two to layer the song harmonies. Flanked at either side of the stage by Olof Mörck with his tight lead/rhythm guitar work and Johan Andreassen lighting a four string bass fire under the stage, all backed by the thundering relentless percussion of Morten Løwe Sørensen. Any worries I had about the sound have quickly evaporated because it is the perfect blend of loud yet not overbearing.
Amaranthe are touring to support their 2014 album, ‘Massive Addictive’ so naturally there was a bias towards tracks from this release. Elize joked early in the show that it was good to be back with some more material for us, and upon asking if anyone had the new album the wall of noise she received in reply suggested that was a resounding yes! Chatting with the crowd was not limited to just the vocalists with Johan taking the mic during a ‘technical difficulty’ – the result being one lucky fan getting happy birthday sung to him by the entire venue.
The band exploded back into action with ‘Afterlife’ which was followed straight up with the almost pop like ‘Electroheart’ – the latter certainly being a fan favourite as the crowd jumped in time with the beat. All eyes are on Elize for this song as she takes full lead on vocals and making a few guys melt in the audience by singing some lines directly to them. A common shout from the front few rows is ‘I love you Elize!’ and to her credit she replied to nearly every one with a glowing smile.
It was after the slower and haunting ‘Amaranthine that they announced it was time their last song of the night, with the band leaving the stage after playing the superb and very appropriate ‘Call Out My Name’. For the next couple of minutes that is exactly what the crowd chanted. If the previous hour was high energy blinding metal, then they went all out for the Encore. Taking the top track from each album we were treated with the heavy power of ‘Automatic’ followed by the synth infused 2014 single ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ which was accompanied by some impressive dancing and high kicks from Elize.
‘The Nexus’ is a fitting close to an already very memorable show, and as the band lineup to take a bow I reflect on the show as a whole. Start to finish Amaranthe have made it obvious that performing live is in their hearts and I know I always enjoy a show more when I know the artists are also having a blast. The music that sounds good in a polished studio recording sounds ever better in a raw live environment, a truly memorable show and I hope to see them return to bigger stages in the near future!