Amplifier Live

Homecoming gig for class act.

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As Manchester’s Christmas markets kick off in a slosh of Glühwein and floppy sausages, what better than a feast of grubby psych-prog to complement the festive mood?

In the past 10 years, Amplifier have evolved into a supremely confident live act and this hometown gig threatens to tumble over into a homecoming parade, despite this being renewed Irish rockers’ Kerbdog’s party.

Before Amplifier’s bravura display, Leeds’ Hawk Eyes put in a shift well worthy of comment. After soundchecking to the bewildering strains of Dr Hook’s Sylvia’s Mother, Hawk Eyes’ brand of explosive proggy metal blows a hole in The Ritz. From the controlled violence of Witch Hunt through to the techy angularity of That’s What This Is, they serve up a throat-grabbing set.

Some of the techier subtleties get lost in the venue’s cavernous reaches, but the teaser for new album Die Trying is a beauty and suggests they’re heading into proggier waters. The only disappointment is that due to an early start time, Hawk Eyes are short of a crowd. They deserve a wider audience.

It takes a certain swagger to open with an instrumental. That’s precisely what Amplifier do, and it tells you a lot about where they’re at. Combining Manc cool and confidence, Sel Balamir and co kick off with Magic Carpet, the headline track from new album Mystoria. This segues effortlessly into The Consultancy and Named After Rocky.

It’s exhilarating stuff, greeted appreciatively by the large crowd. Balamir is clearly chuffed to be back on home turf and playing an old stomping ground, declaring of The Ritz’s fan‑filled dancehall grandeur at one point: “It’s fucking awesome… you want to see it from up here!” They even dedicate O Fortuna to the tune that opened the old Monday club nights here, the 633 Squadron theme (rechristened 666 Squadron for the night).

Time is tight so it’s a shorter set than usual, but lack of time gives the gig an almost festival feel. The trinity of tunes that close the set – Motorhead,_ O Fortuna_ and The Wave – are quite terrifyingly good.

It’s always a risk that on a sound system this big the detail will get lost, but what’s missing in subtlety is made up for with a depth that turns your insides into pâté. The outstanding track of the night is Black Rainbow, which contains one of the most beautiful psych-prog wigouts in the proggiverse.

Angular, dark and delicious, Balamir can come across as an alien presence to souls lusting for simpler rock’n’roll fare. But if, as he said, Manchester is still the best rock’n’roll town in the world, it’s one that’s open to class. And that’s exactly what Amplifier are.