Lichfield Guildhall played host to another sell out show on Elles Bailey‘s current UK tour. Lichfield Arts have put on some super shows in this well appointed gorgeous venue that lends itself well to live music.
First up is the relatively local Sunjay. It’s hard to believe that some 7 years have passed since our path previously crossed. What is different now is that the between song banter is almost an act in itself. He’s very funny, often with typical self deprecating black country humour, with impeccable timing. Impeccable would also be a good way to describe his fingerpicking technique on the likes of ‘I Can Love You Like A Man’ and Eddie Morton’s ‘London Roads’. The humour isn’t restricted to the between song chat as evidenced on the super ‘Bob Dylan?’ which receives a great reception from the crowd. He’s a perfect warm up for the main act.
You’d be hard pressed to find a write up or review about Elles Bailey that doesn’t mention a recent award or nomination that she’s recently received. Indeed, even since this show she’s been nominated for ‘UK Artist Of The Year’ at the Americana Music Association UK Awards for 2022. The broad nature of the awards reflects the cross genre diversity of her music, that weaves effortlessly between blues, rock, roots, soul & americana.
The show kicks off previewing ‘The Game’ a track form the forthcoming Shining In The Half Light album, and the next one ‘Stones’ is also a new track. The fact she starts with two new tracks when she already has a sizable back catalogue matters not one jot; the sound is great, the band are tight and audience are attentive.
Lockdown saw another change for Elles as she became a mother with this tour being her first being away from her son to whom she dedicates the soulful ‘Miss Me When I’m Gone’. Another new song, ‘Riding Out The Storm’, which was written pre lockdown seems to have taken on another narrative. Another soulful number that brings Jonny Henderson’s keyboards to the forefront before concluding with a scorching solo from guitarist Joe Wilkins. Following this just Elles and Wilkins remain as the rest of the band leave the stage as the duo run through a stripped down ‘Walk Away’ and an emotionally charged John Prine cover of ‘I Remember Everything’.
The rest of the band then return, having had the opportunity to briefly hit the bar, and settle into a smouldering and expansive ‘Cheats & Liars’. Elsewhere we get to hear her take on Wilson Pickett’s ‘Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You’. ‘Medicine Man’ is introduced as her “hit” and features some excellent slide guitar from Wilkins. This is followed swiftly with the up tempo ‘Sunshine City’ which she proudly mentions is currently the most frequently played song on Planet Rock. Matthew Jones drums and Matthew Waer’s bass really power this one along. As Elles leaves the stage with the band playing on, the lasting impression is one of having watched a very slick show.
Returning for an encore, Elles talks about growing up in a farmhouse in Bristol that always had an open door policy that meant she was always exposed to a diverse bunch of guests and it proves a suitable introduction to ‘Crowded Table’. Finally we hear one of her oldest songs, ‘Howlin’ Wolf’, an excellent blues rock song that is extended to allow each of the musicians a solo spot as she sits on the side of the stage taking the opportunity to appreciate them as part of the audience.
Having seen many post lockdown shows, there have been so many great performances from artists just glad to back out there. Tonight was no exception to this apart from one significant difference. Elles Bailey is sitting on what is undoubtedly the best album of her career to date, and she knows it. There’s a confidence and determination there of someone that is not only back, but knows they are moving forward. If more mainstream radio picks up on songs like Planet Rock has done with ‘Cheats & Liars’ and ‘Sunshine City’ there’s no telling where it will take her. It certainly not inconceivable that she could be headlining the likes of Birmingham Symphony Hall before too long, which makes nights like tonight even more of a treasured memory.
1. The Game
3. Miss Me When I’m Gone
4. What’s The Matter With You?
5. When I Go Away
6. Riding Out The Storm
7. Walk Away
8. I Remember Everything
9. Cheats and Liars
10. Help Somebody
11. Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You
12. Halfway House
13. Medicine Man
14. Sunshine City
15. Crowded Table
16. Howlin’ Wolf