At a time when the charts are clogged full of ex X Factor wannabe’s, ‘Youtube sensations’ and winners of ‘The Voice’ (ok maybe not The Voice), Amber Arcades’ backstory is pleasantly different.
Dutch born Annelotte de Graaf was an official working on U.N war crime tribunals as well as a legal aide to Syrian refugees in her native Holland, when she decided upon an altogether different career path. Taking the name Amber Arcades, she used every penny she had to fly to New York, and booking her own studio time, recorded a demo that would eventually see her signed to UK record label Heavenly. Not that she is likely to make a significant dent in the pop charts mind, her dream pop lullabies are too subtle, and dare I say, too intelligent for all of that.
Unfortunately for De Graaf, and even more so for support act Ella, who doubles as Amber Arcades keyboard player, a Tuesday match night at the end of October has not pulled in a huge Tyneside crowd, and a sparse Foundation Hall at Sage provides tonights backdrop. Those that did turn out though, were in for something of a treat, as De Graaf and her four piece band delivered a bewitching and promising set.
Opening with ’Come With Me’ the first track from acclaimed debut album ‘Fading Lines’ (an album that really is well worth an investment) De Graaf cuts a confident figure, tall, blonde and relaxed with precise guitar work and soft as silk vocals. The dreamy atmospherics and vocals are perhaps reminiscent of Stereolab, and soon there is a blissfully chilled out vibe filling the room.
Typical track ‘Apophenia’ is so relaxing, I start to wish this was a seated gig. It feels like slipping into a nice warm bubble bath after a hard day at work and having your shoulders massaged by Hope Sandoval. The band soon remind us that they have a lot more to offer than pleasant aural wallpaper however, and the uptempo and Lush (yes, capital ‘L’) ‘Fading Lines’ is a delight. ‘Constant’s Dream’ is performed with a menace that doesn’t feature on the sweeter recorded version and the chiming guitars of ‘Right Now’ help it to feel like some lost classic.
Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’ is transformed from something haunted into something danceable, whilst retaining its effortless beauty, as the band continue to prove they have several strings to their bow.
De Graaf, who has been charming throughout, says her goodbyes to the attentive crowd and she and her band finish with the synth driven single ‘Turning Light’. It’s the highlight of a razor sharp set, and surely when it’s performed on her next visit to Tyneside, there will be a sizeable crowd there to witness it.
Photographer – Matt Flynn
Part time crime-fighter and music hack, full time idiot and football obsessive.
Spent several years working in record stores in my younger days, and probably several years since nosing around them.
Liable to sing Neil Diamond songs at karaoke if left unattended.
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