Bristol-based country singer Elles Bailey arrived in Leeds ahead of her appearance in Colne and the Great British R&B Fest to perform a two-part set to an eager crowd in the intimate back room of the Grove Inn.
Greeting the crowd with a friendly smile she asked about whether she should wear her red or black hat - bought for just £1 from H&M in Leeds a while back and now accumulating "three tours of sweat!" - to complete her spot-on country look of ripped jeans and checkered shirt tied carefully at the front. Accompanied by a band of guitarist, bassist and drummer, packed tightly into the room decorated with photos of musicians great and small, as a four-piece they proceeded to lift the roof off the pub through a combination of throbbing bass, passionate drums and Bailey's pitch-perfect powerful voice that sounded mature beyond her youthful years.
The first part of the set began with her big hitter 'Same Flame' which was belted out with such energy it was difficult not to be entranced by the tight performance from the band. Bailey, who alternated between standing, and performing at the keys, switched it up through many songs from her upcoming album 'Wildfire', including the mid-tempo swagger of 'Barrel of Your Gun', ballad 'Perfect Storm' and the emotive 'What If I'. A delightful cover of Howlin' Wolf's 'Spoonful' fleshed out the first set, the acapella breakdown just one highlight of this strong cover.
Further songs filled out the first eight with plenty of breakdowns and solos packed with enthusiasm and energy and the four piece both captured the music and atmosphere well, alongside looking like they were having great fun. A passionate drum solo near the end was one of the best performances I've seen on percussion that close up, and the energy sent the vinyls on the merch stand tumbling to the floor, an act resembling the 'fall of capitalism' according to the drummer, adding to the fun banter between songs.
After a brief break they returned to the room to bring more great songs to the receptive crowd, alongside some nicely pitched anecdotes about pronouncing local town Keighley like the the irish dance. The second set included 'Waiting Game', 'Time's A Healer', 'Wildfire' and a song about Janis Joplin entitled 'Girl Who Owned the Blues', the latter four taken from the album out next week, also including a more traditional country-sounding cover of Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off' which was also performed live in this section.
Though the room might have been intimate and the crowd not as big as at their recent festival appearances, Elles Bailey and her band gave the show everything they had and the excellent musicianship and her powerful voice full of energy filled the room. If you like your country music with heart and energy then you need to check out Elles Bailey on future dates. If this gig is a taste of what's to come, she's got a very promising rest of 2017. (8/10)