Eliza and the Bear, Scala, London, 28th November 2016

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Back in 2011, Eliza and the Bear formed when songwriters James Kellegher and Callie Noakes got together to write music. They added friends Martin Dukelow, Chris Brand and Paul Kevin Jackson and the band was born. They never did add an Eliza or for that matter a bear but what they did do is take a fantastic folk music drive and layer it with excellent instrumentation. James takes lead vocals, Callie the keys, Martin is on lead guitar, Chris on bass and Paul on drums. The name comes from a collection of poems by Eleanor Rees, and with music like this the world will soon be their oyster.

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It’s almost impossible to see this band play live and not leave the venue with a spring in your step. Euphoric anthems filled London Scala with an air of optimism as the uplifting songs from this London five piece band’s debut album came thick and fast during a 60 minute thirteen song set last night.

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‘Where Have You Been’ was followed quickly by the wonderful ‘Light it Up’ and ‘Upon The North’ and the scene was set as fans punched the air with delight, jumped on each other’s shoulders and span with joy. Eliza and the Bear seem to still have so much fun playing these tracks and their infectious enthusiasm quickly spreads to every corner of the room. They once said that they wrote music that was purely for themselves but after seeing the band play for the third time last night it is very evident that they are building a loyal following of fans who fervently believe these songs are for them too.

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The energy from all five band members is a joy to watch but every time I see these guys play I am blown away by keyboard player Callie Noakes and the enjoyment and pleasure this man seems to get from live performance is impossible not to appreciate, so much so that band merchandise now boasts an honorary T shirt emblazoned with his picture and the name KEYSUS. It’s difficult to see Eliza and the Bear and not become a follower of Keysus! His in-between song tinkling on the keys constantly teases the sell out Scala crowd with what’s to come and the rapport between the keys man and the rest of the band is a very special thing that fans have been quick to join in with.

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With each venue of this current tour the band are using Twitter to ask what fans want as a cover and for this evening’s performance they gave an excellent rendition of Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’; if ever a song described a band’s mantra, surely this is the one for Eliza and the Bear.

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The night finished too soon and I would have liked to see the band be a little more indulgent with their classic tracks and draw them out longer. This band have a peculiar problem in that they have so many good songs that the high points are constant and the excitement level in the room really high. They could afford to play with some of their tracks such is the high standard of musicianship within the band and still have the crowd eating out of their hands. They finished with the double whammy of ‘It Gets Cold’ and ‘Friends’; some bands will work a lifetime and be lucky to have such an excellent finale to a wonderful night of music from a band that I hope goes on to play the biggest stages. They really are an incredible example of what hard work, passion and enjoyment can achieve. Long may they continue!

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