The rain is pouring and the leaves are falling. It’s a trudge through the congealed sludge of Autumn’s detritus as I make my way to Leicester O2’s Academy to see Eliza And The Bear. “We’ve never been to Leicester before“, announces lead singer, James Kellegher, towards the end of that set and you find yourself wishing that they’d seen it on a warmer, sunnier day.
For Eliza And The Bear’s singalong, sunny, festival-friendly brand of rocky pop is best perhaps imagined when accompanied with a cider in hands and the heat beating down. The largely female audience here, at this O2 bar that’s attached to Leicester University, are doing their best to relive their post-A-level states of bliss by mouthing along to the words from the songs they recognise. The marching, uplifting beat elicits raised, clapping hands from the Freshers. Fan girls at the barrier exchange glances with each other when they sense that guitar player, Martin Dukelow, has flopped his excess of blonde hair in their direction.
It’s difficult not to get caught up in this sweetness. There is an undeniable charm and happiness about the proficient pop that Eliza And The Bear produce. “I’ve got friends. I’ve got family here“, sings James in Friends, the set opener. It’s this inclusive tone they establish that remains throughout. They want you to be their mates, because they are all mates together. They’re more than happy to chat with you at the merch stall after the gig. They sympathise with support band, Lisbon, who have had much of their gear stolen the previous night in Birmingham. Bands often seem to get their kit nicked in Brum.
I only managed to catch the last three numbers from Lisbon but any unfamiliarity with their instruments doesn’t show. On the evidence of tonight they come from that same sunny factory as Eliza And The Bear. There are backing tracks adding to the layers here but nobody in the appreciative audience seems to mind that. A general tick in the box from this direction and I’ll mark them down as ones to watch in full when I next get the opportunity.
Eliza And The Bear do not seem to be lacking in equipment. This is a show in which their guitar tech is kept pretty busy with Fenders being replaced by Gibsons. Towards the end of the set, Martin is handed an acoustic guitar and the rest of the band, apart from James, leave the stage. It’s the obligatory chilled-out moment and a chance for this duo to show off their vocal and musical talents. The girls at the front don’t need sunshine to melt at this point.
“We’ve spent a year now writing our debut album and in two weeks time, once this tour is done, we’re going to head into the studio to record it,” offers James during the set. On the evidence of tonight, a spring release should set Eliza And The Bear up nicely for some sunny, Summer days.
Eliza And The Bear were previously interviewed by Sonic Breakfast. You can read that interview here.