No one in this band is called Eliza.
Formed in 2011, London based Eliza and the Bear have become synonymous with the feel good, indie rock/pop that is perfectly adaptable between the larger stadiums as well as the smaller venues. Independent venue week was celebrated nationwide with a multitude of bands performing gigs in smaller, often confined, locations offering an intimate experience. The Forum in Tunbridge wells holds a mere 250, but offered one of the best gigs I have personally experienced. Winning the NME best small venue in 2012 and previously having bands like Oasis, Coldplay and The Libertines – it’s accurate to assume this can be a great stepping stones for bands to really break into the music scene.
As part of Eliza and the Bears 2016 tour they visited The Forum on the 26th January to an overwhelming response. Initially, the venue was sparsely populated when Slowlights took to the stage; regardless of this they were incredible. A blend of indie and traditional rock, they took to the stage with an enthusiasm and energy that took everyone by surprise. The inexperience of the band was only recognisable when they stated in one of their many quirky anecdotes that they’d written this song during the tour when they realised they didn’t have enough material – including the question of who was most likely to mess it up – despite this their set was enjoyable from beginning to end. One of the many highlights was their single Take What I Can Get, encapsulating the bands force and providing an opportunity to display the diversity of what the band can perform.
A short interlude and Rocky Nti took to the stage. Again the energy and the enthusiasm was the forefront of their act, working the slowly increasing crowd to sing lyrics back at them. An inherent stage presence was prominent, creating the perfect live music experience you don’t get from just listening to the incredible music. An impromptu Happy Birthday sung on stage to the guitarist and songs like Netflix And Marry Me captures the core of Rocky NTI – confidence and fun – both expertly emulated within the live performance.
In a short space of time The Forum had gone from a sporadically populated venue to a crowded impatient mob just before Eliza and the Bear took to the small stage. Accompanied by smoke, lights and a thunderous applause as the fivesome humbly walked on. Crowds echoed back ‘no one in this band is called Eliza’ as they tore into their skilfully crafted set list featuring classics like Lions Heart, Talk and Friends. The stage presence of the band was superlative, at times singing the lyrics directly at individuals in the crowd whilst maintaining the electric atmosphere and the close bond of the band on stage. A can of red stripe in one hand – the other pumping ferociously at the air – standing mere inches away from the band perfectly encapsulates what Independent Venue Week is all about.
James Kellegher – the lead singer alongside being a guitarist- was able to command the attention of the room with his vocal range and passion he puts behind every lyric he looked perfectly at home with the majority of the crowd singing every word right back at him. Chris Brand (bass guitar) and Martin Dukelow (guitar) both expertly played the anthemic indie music to its full potential, the riffs and chords reverberated against the walls with an almost deafening magnitude. Paul Jackson (drums) was so skilful he easily rivalled some of the best drummers in the country, again emulating the excitement and liveliness of the band as a whole. Possibly the most surprising element of the band was Callie Noakes on the keyboard.
I’ve never experienced such raw talent and dynamic performing and it perfectly fitted with the theme of the band. The keyboard didn’t restrict Callie from jumping around the stage and exhibiting just as much passion and energy as the rest of the band. The catharsis of the night was when the intro of It Gets Cold dropped. After an exhausting night of bounding around and bouncing of other members of the equally energetic crowd it was a perfect ending to a perfect night. The unforgettable climax as one voice united to sing the chorus straight back to the band perfectly summarised the Eliza and the Bear experience: fantastic, memorable songs performed with an incredible energy unmatched by any current band.
Meeting the guys after their performance was a memorable extra, predominantly due to how likable and genuine the band was. Their humble approach shone through, repeatedly stating it’s the fans who are Eliza and the Bear, it could be considered the band do not realise just how good they are. However, their ever expanding fan base and the continuing success of hits like It Gets Cold provides evidence for just how good their 2016 will be. Easily one of the best live performances I have ever experienced; expect big things from Eliza and the Bear in 2016 and beyond.
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Review by Harry Curtis | @Harry_Curtis_