Elles Bailey, Lady Nade

Tuesday 12th March 2019

The Lexington, Islington, London

Pentonville Road was always one of the properties I’d try and buy when playing those long games of Monopoly as a child; trying to snap up those light blue cards wasn’t always a successful strategy but my journey up the Pentonville Road on a cold night to discover a new venue (well worth a visit) and two new singers was a definite success.  Elles Bailey is a relative newcomer, but has it seems built up a formidable reputation as a live performer, which was borne out by the large, appreciative audience that turned out on a chilly Tuesday evening, many sporting merchandise bought at other live shows. 
 
Having listened to her excellent new album, ‘Road I Call Home’ released only a few days before the gig, I was looking forward to her performance and the young singer did not disappoint.  Bursting onto the stage in trademark hat to launch into ‘Wild Wild West’ from the new album it was immediately apparent that Bristol born Elles has a fabulous voice - powerful, but still able to carry the melody and full of character, with alternately a Bluesy and Country edge.  She exudes charisma, and, unlike a lot of performers who don’t always seem that comfortable in front of an audience, was immediately bending down from the first number to sing directly to individual members of the crowd. After this engaging start, she carried out an ongoing dialogue with the audience that gave the evening an intimate feel.  It was a pleasure to hear a collection of finely crafted songs, ‘Deeper’, played early on and described by the singer as her favourite on the new album, being a good example. 
 
Collaborating with a number of song writing partners for the Nashville recorded album, has clearly paid dividends in creating a number of excellent mature tracks like album opener ‘What’s The Matter With You” - with its strong melody and moody dynamics - played live the song showcased the fine playing of Johnny Henderson on Hammond organ as well as the very tasteful guitar work of Joe Wilkins.  The band, including the solid backline of Mathew Jones on drum and Matthew Waer on bass, allowed the music to breathe with sensitive accompaniment throughout.  Elles made the ensemble a five piece as she added keyboards on many numbers, including the soulful ballad ‘Light In the Distance’, which the singer introduced and played alone. with a lengthy story about the song being inspired by a friend that died.  A strong Country feel was evident in a cover of Levon Helm’s ‘When I Go Away’, which the singer explained she’d heard while listening to local radio while recording in Nashville; and similarly, a new song, introduced as a “taste of album No. 3”, sounded like Elles was channelling Tammy Wynette. 
 
A more Rocky feel was demonstrated on ‘Medicine Man’ (inspired by a music industry charlatan that the singer encountered, to her regret) and the big drum led groove of ‘Road I Call Home’ with its chunky chord motif.  The evening closed with early recording ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ and a song inspired by Janis Joplin; musical inspirations clearly acknowledged. A superb performance that left the crowd happy and, judging by the long queue to meet the singer and buy some merch’ after the show, further consolidated her growing fanbase. Earlier in the evening there had been a delightful, relaxed performance by Lady Nade, playing a solo acoustic set which highlighted the purity of her very lovely voice as she sang her quirkily food and drink associated songs.  A nice appetiser for the main course that followed.
 
Simon Green (photos courtesy of Simon Green)

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