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Although I spend a reasonable amount of time in the West Country throughout the year, this is my first visit to Bristol, the opportunity to tie in a work trip with Amplifier live just too good an opportunity to miss.  Although The Fleece is a instantly recognisable name from many a touring bands schedule, only on entering the building, pacing the stone floor of the spacious pub, perusing the posters which adorn the walls, can you fully appreciate how legendary a rock venue this is.  The names of some of the biggest bands around literally leap out, “Biffy Clyro,” “Muse,” “Queens of the Stone Age” and “Radiohead,” to name but four.  If Bristol is the music capitol of the South West, The Fleece proves the epicentre of rock in the city.

Another name to add to the list, Amplifier, surprisingly playing The Fleece for the first time, whilst not perhaps in the higher echelons inhabited by the aforementioned, their loyal, committed fan base apparent tonight, out in force on a dreadfully wet and windy Monday night, to witness the vastly underrated Manchester outfit.  Support, Mojo Fury, also benefiting from a generously proportioned and interested early crowd, the drummer’s Motorhead t-shirt, a red herring as the Belfast quartet exhibit sophisticated playing and strong vocals through an entertaining, technical set of alt-rock, enhanced by increased tempo and an injection of funk towards the end.  Debut album “Visiting Hours of the Travelling Circus” is available now and the lads are back over for a tour of England and Scotland in February / March next year, well worth checking out.

A definite buzz surrounds the front of the crowd as the headliners begin to set up their equipment, as three of the largest pedal boards imaginable appear. Even bassist Neil Mahony’s, would  put The Edge and Matt Bellamy combined to shame.  Utilising technology and an additional guitarist in Steve Durose, there’s no doubt Amplifier look to re-create the soundscapes created in the studio on the road, this not a band however totally reliant on effects at the expense of intricate and powerful playing, both virtues in abundance this evening.  After a slightly reserved and unexpected opening of “Forever and More,” last track from latest, self-released two hour opus, “The Octopus,” drops away, Amplifier really kick into gear with crowd pleaser “Motorhead” followed by “The Wave” one of the stand out tracks from “The Octopus” outlining everything  brilliant about this outfit, massive riffs, complex guitar interplay and Sel Balamir’s loquacious lyrical themes, “The Wave,” also containing my favourite Balamir vocal line, a deliciously distorted delivery of  “But the wave is breaking” almost evil incarnate.

If Balamir and co had any concerns over the last gig of the current tour being in Bristol, rather than the Manchester homecoming the previous night, these are quickly dispelled by the amount of people who’ve turned out tonight and the band respond accordingly, producing a thoroughly mesmeric and enthralling performance as they discharge “Interglacial Spell,” “Strange Seas of Thought” the only track from second album “Insider” and “Interstella.” Special mention must go to the rhythm section, Mahoney adding not only intelligent and deeply resonant, chest crushing bass lines, also using his instrument as a third lead on occasions and drummer Matt Brobin just incredible behind his relatively small kit. Brobin not only maintains elaborate patterns throughout, he proves a complete dynamo, the source from which Amplifier derive their power, his sheer energy and formidable technique, absolutely engrossing.   

The set is brought to a close with an atmospheric “One Great Summer” before the band return to euphoric applause and after a jovial exchange between the members, questioning whether to close with “Welcome to the Jungle,” instead deciding an inordinately epic, sixteen minute segue of “UFO’s / Airborne” will suffice……. and suffice it certainly does, bringing an outstanding evenings proceedings to an end.    

I’ve never quite worked out why Amplifier aren’t absolutely huge, sheer bad luck and complacency of record companies hasn’t helped, although perhaps they inhabit a rock hinterland, too heavy for the indie kids and not metal enough for the extreme fans?  Whatever the reasons, this band continue to produce some of the most incredibly exciting, thought provoking, progressive music around and with new album “Mystoria” due next year, they aren’t finished yet.  If I were you, I’d don a wet suit in 2012 and be ready to ride the next wave of D.I.Y Amplifier, an aural surge missed at your peril.      


Forever & More
The Wave
Interglacial Spell
Strange Seas of Thought
White Horses at Sea
Golden Ratio
The Sick Rose
One Great Summer


UFO'S / Airborne