Eliza And The Bear / Into The Ark / Michael Cassidy
The Duchess – York – 15/02/16
On a cold February Monday, 5-piece London outfit Eliza and the Bear took to the stage to deliver a memorable show at the Duchess, York and faced a healthy crowd of eager fans.
There was a buzz about the venue as people descended the stairs and crammed into the musical cave. Sticky floors, black walls and a particularly low ceiling make for an unusually good venue. You could say the Duchess has ‘character’ – at least, that’s the most diplomatic way to describe it.
The venue begins to fill as support acts Michael Cassidy (7)of Paisely, Scotland and Welsh duo Into the Ark (8) put on equally satisfying shows in their own right. Cassidy moves through some crafty originals sounding like a Scottish Tracy Chapman (that’s a surprisingly good thing). Into the Ark put on a great show with energy and talent that compliment each other like steak and a good glass of red. The York crowd respectfully join in with both support acts, likely because they were pleasantly surprised at how good they both were.
Before head-liners Eliza And The Bear (9) take the stage there’s a tension in the air that feels like a lot of people have waited to see this band play for a long time. The lads from the ‘big-smoke’ have received a significant amount of Radio 1 play as of recent weeks and have evidently benefited from the exposure.
Smoke begins to bellow from the wings, we hear strings and the boys fill the stage to raucous cheers and applause. Their moment has come and the atmosphere seems just right for this to be a night to remember. They launch into first track ‘Lion’s Heart’ and the mood is set. Their joyful indie/folky delivery has the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Front man and lead vocalist James Kellegher has great stage presence and faultless vocals as they dance and smile their way through the opening of the set.
They waste no time with slick transitions through to the mid point of their set. They bring the traditional mid-gig slowdown in the form of ‘Brother’s Boat’. There has to be something said about a band that can make the Duchess on a frosty Monday night feel like a festival stage on a mid-summers evening. Their vibe feels like a non-stop party, embodied by pianist and likely the happiest musician (and maybe person) I’ve ever seen, Callie Noakes. His attitude and spirit lift the performance that extra notch and this resonates with the rest of the band. He’ll catch someone’s eye and pop a grin on their face without trying to. I couldn’t take my eyes off how much fun he was having. The dude looked like he had won a competition to be there. That’s happiness.
There’s an element of ease with which Eliza and the Bear work through their set. Everything is slick, tight and purposeful. We get to the latter stages of the set and James has the crowd pull up their phones and lighters. The York contingent were more than happy to oblige. A sea of stars beam towards the stage as they play through ‘Make It On My Own’.
Kellegher then announces they are going to break the mould and not adhere to the standard and “pretentious” encore facade that litters the band scene. He gives the running order: encore, walk off, crowd chants for “one more song!”, return to the stage and play the final two songs everyone knows. He then, ironically, leads the band off stage for an encore. But hey, at least they were honest.
They return and play crowd favourites ‘Friends’ and ‘It Gets Cold’ with the Duchess’ roof struggling to stay put. They close to a thunderous applause and the honest appreciation from those that filled the underground venue.
Eliza and the Bear encapsulate everything that is good about the music industry: genuine music written by a band that loves what they’re doing and put on a fantastic show worth paying for.
Keep your eyes peeled for their brand new self-titled album released early April. My biggest recommendation is to see them at a festival. It just seems right.
Review – Will Paddison
Photography – Danny Peart Photography