“This is our first time ever in Birmingham. Actually that’s not true, we played Lunar Festival in June, somewhere in the mountains around here? OK, for Dutch people these are mountains. We’re from Holland. These are MOUNTAINS!”
Who knew there’s few things more endearing than Dutch people explaining their concept of mountains? Tonight is Amber Arcades’ first show playing an enthusiastically anticipatory Hare and Hounds, and the description is indicative of friendly natured real-life named Annelotte de Graaf, dressed in a long-sleeved polo-necked black top that contrasts with her blonde hair, snowy countenance and white trainers.
Despite concerns about wheelchair access, The Guardian cites the venue as Birmingham’s best, partly down to its sound quality: de Graaf’s tightly aimed voice, which bends a note knowing just where to put the emphasis, gratefully benefiting on her album’s title track, ‘Fading Lines’. It’s temping, greedy, to will this voice more to the fore in similar songs: greedy because her album’s non-bragging production is replicated to a tee, and her noisy five piece band is fantastic.
De Graaf describes asking for floors to sleep on during tours: despite her job as a lawyer her album’s funded by earlier work as a supermarket cashier, and some bands are allowed on the road only by social security safety nets. A reminder things are not as rock and roll as they seem and all should be grateful for these nights. This night is increasingly touching, describing hope fighting against melancholy, like Abba as much as the journalistically boring roll call of dream-pop-bands-with-female-vocalist, a tantalisingly just out of reach example of this genre’s more sensitive – Madonna ‘Borderline’ heights terrifically catchy – side.
The pixel perfect voice continues precisely hitting each target as sure as an expert 1980s video game player: ‘Apophenia’’s words melt in de Graaf’s mouth until she, surely (surely) reluctantly, lets them go, before giving even more heart covering Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’ like a proper fangirl. After a simulated encore (“We’re supposed to go off the stage. And like, you’re supposed to go: ‘Nooo! Come back!’”) Amber Arcades pretty much literally lets her hair down rocking out to seven-minutes long ‘Turning Light’, then ends the night with her hair snapping back into place, just like that. Pixel perfect.
I Will Follow
Come With Me
Which Will (Nick Drake cover)
What a Heart Can Contain
Press photo credit: Nick Helderman.
Read our interview with Amber Arcades.