Amber Arcades, The Dome

The Dome, Tufnell Park, 

Wed 10th October

The Dome is empty on this Wednesday night, but there’s a couple of hours to go before Amber Arcades grace the stage. 

Thankfully opener The Underwater Boys are on stage and ready, their singer having been struggling to get him and his bike through the queue until me and my friends let him jump ahead of us. The room reverberates with androgynous vocals and heavy stamping dance moves and the feel is of angry Britpop backed up with a laptop. The dancing is evocative of how I imagine a gnome running. 

Basement Revolver don’t look like pop stars, but then in today’s climate of bedroom creativity and independent activity, what does this even mean? Led by Chrisy Hurn, singer, guitarist and songwriter, they share intimate stories and personal wounds from her past, blending 90s infused indie rock with fuzzy dream pop. It’s a short set, but they sweetly invite us all to hang out with them at the merch stall, not being keen to carry it all back to the US with them.  

At 9.40 Amber Arcades enter, and the room has filled out, all here to see the Dutch artist Annelotte de Graaf and her band. They immediately fire up with passion and vigour, getting the until now lacksadaisical crowd going. It’s rocking dream pop with an angsty bristle, all powerful and energetic. 

There are often shades of personal in the political, and whilst the tracks on latest album European Heartbreak are ostensibly about a breakup, it’s impossible not to view them through the lens of Brexit and current international relations. On Goodnight Europe she sings ‘Europe, it’s not you, I’m starting to think it’s me, my leftist ideals, and my university degree. de Graaf was born in Utrecht and worked as a legal aide in the United Nations before embarking on her music career. Perfect pop tune Oh My Love (What Have We Done) has a hand clap chorus, and is introduced as ‘Oh Europe what have we done.’ Self-Portrait In A Car At Night is a standout tune, turning the focus on de Graff and a sense of loneliness and isolation. Although touring the new album, de Graff makes sure there’s plenty of crowd pleasers from Fading Lines, her droney and reverb heavy debut album.  

DeGraff owns the stage, the band most definitely her backing, although by the end the bare chested bassist in skinny stripey trousers is rivalling for attention. She shimmers through her warm stage presence and optimistic banter. It’s a lively and lovely midweek pick me up, and one that confirms de Graaf as one of the most tender and zealous songwriters on the ascendency.

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