Gig review: Eliza and the Bear @King Tut’s, 08/10/14

Photo: Saga barnard

Why do we even go to gigs? My best guess is, to have fun. Consequently, if we treat this as the criterion of success for a concert then, Eliza and the Bear, I have to say, mission accomplished. Bonus points for the unforgettable experience of a fire alarm-induced impromptu outdoor acoustic.

Although the band seem to have a strong fan base already (at least based on the 200 strong crowd in Tut’s and the six digit listens on Spotify) they’ve still got that magical drive to really prove themselves to the audience that makes up-and-coming band performances so intoxicating.

The band led with the candid ‘Friends’, their ‘biggest’ single to date (if you don’t recognise it from anywhere else, Bulmers ad), which sounded absolutelty brilliant live, especially combined with frantic headbanging from the band and lyrics bellowed and shrieked from the mainly female audience. ‘I’ve got friends, I’ve got family here’ – it screams opener. In addition to that, choosing to lead with ‘Friends’ was almost like the band saying: ‘We know you all know this song, now let us show you that we’ve got so much more.’ Having said that, most songs got a proper sing-along, whether that is to be attributed to dedicated fans or really catchy, powerful hooks and choruses, or both, is hard to say. Although my aquintance with the band had been brief, I found myself (and my trusty companion, who had never heard of the quintet before) chanting along anyway.

Visually, the guys look like an eclectic mix of individuals – maybe that’s their secret to music so rich in texture? Seamlessly combining and alternating between reverby grooves, bouncy tunes, poetic keyboards, banging drums, soaring vocals, barking choruses, dramatic violins, electrifying guitar riffs, celestial harmonies and stamping trumpet sections is no easy feat in recorded music, not to mention live. Even though they’re branded as a joyous bunch, they still had a bit of that raw edge. It’s pretty clear from the start how well-rehearsed and unabashedly good they are. The fact that they actually had a trumpeter on stage only added to the effect. Their connection with the audience was impressive too – it felt like a bunch of friends all invited to a spectacularly jovial folksy indie-pop party.

The set was meticulously thought-through with high voltage songs such as ‘Let Us Be Young’ and ‘Talk’ taking the energy levels close to the dropping point broken up with new acoustics (which, according to the band themselves, they’d saved for Glasgow) that kept curiosity levels up while the crowd regenerated their musical mana to dive back into the depths of Eliza and the Bear’s immensely jaunty tunes.

The most memorable number of the night was definitely their latest single ‘Light It Up’.  Halfway through the first chorus, the firealarm went off, everyone was ushered out to the street. Massive damper, eh? Well, not really. Guitarist Martin Dukelow had managed to grab a guitar on his way out and once on the street, headed straight for the nearest elevated surface with vocalist James Kellegher. This resulted in a pretty special experience – a sing-along acuostic rendition of ‘Light It Up’ with a firetruck in the background. No hard feelings from the firemen though. Even they seemed to enjoy the irony and gave us all a nice wave before rolling away into the night

The closing song, this time played indoors, with the full amp-instrument-lights-smoke shabang, ‘It Gets Cold’ was an ideal song to finish with. The beautiful vocal harmonies, nimble guitar riffs, a bit of a tropical twang and epic drums, not to mention the very appropriate lyric ‘I’m on my way back home’ summarised the night charmingly, with a peculiarly nostalgic sense of euphoria. Absolutey enticing.

It was a thouroughly enjoyable night, pulled off with only a handful of singles under their belt. Imagine an album tour. If you’ve decided to catch them the next time they’re in Glasgow, I’ll see you there.

by Silja Slepnjov

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