Eliza and the Bear // Live Review

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O2 Academy Islington – October 16th

“It’s nice to be home, boys!” James Kellegher, Eliza & The Bear’s frontman, yells triumphantly. And what a homecoming show it is. The London five-piece manages to fuse indie rock, pop and folk without erring on the sides of twee or effusive.

They open with ‘2013 Friends’, a driving indie anthem to which the whole crowd, completely packing out Islington’s O2 Academy, knows every word. There’s an entertainment in their set that so many indie rock gigs lack; the quintet exude an energy that makes you grin involuntarily.

Also: they’re humble. Profusely humble. Their happiness is palpable, and it’s refreshing – and kind of endearing – to see an unjaded group who’ve worked hard for the success they deserve.

The London show marks the culmination of a 17-date tour – the band’s last appearances before they head off to record their début LP after a two-year writing period. We’re afforded an insight into the album’s material, which ranges from upbeat and incessantly danceable to an acoustic track (‘Cruel’) that’s delicate, sweet and a testament to Kellegher’s vocal strength, range, and an inexplicably beautiful tone. Perhaps most surprising is the brilliant use of trumpet throughout the set; not overpowering or tacky but assimilating perfectly with both vocals and instrumentation.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a fucking long time,” says Kellegher again – and he means it. It’s a landmark show for the young band; their biggest headline audience to date, and a special hometown night – appropriately punctuated by callouts from mates in the crowd.

They aren’t immensely different to the plethora of indie rock outfits treading the boards, but somehow Eliza & The Bear manage to stand out. They unashamedly cross genres without becoming walking clichés, their stage presence and artistry is improving fast, and they are FUN. It feels like artists are so often caught up in the ‘business’ of forging a career they forget their passion – big things are coming for the band who haven’t forgotten to just have a good time.