A more localised version of “Mon the Bif” for Biffy Clyro, “Up the R’z” is a chant that rings around the Student Union tonight for the final night and homecoming for Reading’s own The Amazons. Frontman and guitarist Matt Thomson later explains this to opening act Fiona-Lee who joins him onstage for the acoustic ballad ‘Palace’. This is to do with the band’s love of Reading Football Club and not to be confused with the “Up the R’s” for QPR (Queens Park Rangers Football Club).
A pre-Christmas end of tour show could have felt a bit flat as the chill from outside carried into the room. But instead, The Amazons bring on utter chaos – the crowd have steam rising off them as the wall of lights behind the band illuminates them. Part way through the band are joined on stage by both tour supports, Fiona-Lee and Glaswegian rockers Swim School – the end of tour party starts early as tins of local ale and a bottle of Jaeger are passed around during a rendition of ‘Junk Food Forever’. As Thomson dons a Santa hat the Christmas vibes begin to kick in with a rousing take on the John Lennon classic ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ as balloons stream down from the ceiling.
The Amazons sit in that middle ground between indie, rock and metal. Their sumptuous riffs sit underneath a layer of fuzz that hides a call-back to the 60’s and 70’s blues-infused rock that is still among the gold standard in guitar music. ‘Georgia,’ which is deemed to be among the band’s favourite songs is evidence of this – possibly harking back to jazz and blues classic ‘Georgia On My Mind’. While there is a darkness that seems to encapsulate their music, this isn’t a crowd to just watch in awe. The circle pits are getting larger as we go deeper into the set. One or two crowd surfers get thrown over the barrier, much to the bemusement of the waiting security, who I’m unsure whether they were aware of what they were signing up for – this wasn’t the usual night of student revelry they are used to.
“Up the R’z” continues to be chanted throughout the night (with the added hatred of club owner Dai Yongge mixed in, which Thomson also alludes to). To call this a nightclub show would be doing a disservice – the sound quality and lighting trump some more well-established venues of a similar size (and larger as well). Thomson has the crowd eating out of his hand from start to finish and any notion of tour fatigue has long since passed. By the time ‘Black Magic’ finishes, no one is leaving in anticipation of an encore – which duly comes in the form of ‘Mother and Fuzz Tree’ from 2019’s sophomore offering Future Dust. As the final fuzz-soaked tones mellow and the throng disperse into the cold night air, the sharpest dressed export from Reading knows they have pleased people with fan favourites such as ‘Ultraviolet’ but have whetted the appetite for the future with new track ‘Night after Night’.