Elles Bailey + Simeon Hammond Dallas

Tuesday 8th March 2022

Omeara, London Bridge

Omeara is a striking venue, a relative newcomer, it is like an old music hall in miniature. Apparently the inspiration behind it was Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons who has a great influence of London’s Folk scene, its location under an archway close to London Bridge bears in mind a secret vault with its exposed brick work: the confinement makes for ideal conditions for acoustic or chamber-like music because the sound it produces is pristine.

So it is just as well that the opening act Simeon Hammond Dallas plays a short acoustic set. A good choice because there are echoes of the Americana stylings of the main act in her troubadour delivery. What sets her apart is a slight Celtic inflection allied to a North London phrasing when either celebrating love or singing about doomed relationships. She even manages to top Paul Simon in the numbers game with her song '100 Lovers' and will be one to look out for how her voice develops over her next few releases.

Elles Bailey, is positively glowing when she enters the stage with her full band, and for good reason. Tonight marked the launch of her new album 'Shining in Half the Light'. And so begins the smouldering opening of the title track as Elles limbers up her vocals for a set that doesn’t match the ordering of the album, and builds through to the track 'Stones'. 'Colours Start to Run' is a tender ballad where she pours all her soul into the chorus, which is reflected in some fine complementary soloing by guitarist Joe Wilkins.

'Who’s That' gets to show-off a finely assembled Gospel backing vocalist trio in Izo Fitzroy, Andrusilla Mosely and Jade Elliot, followed by a Wilson Pickett cover and a heart-breaking rendition of a Mary Gauthier’s 'Mercy Now'. To witness her intonation of individual lyrics on this number, to wring out the maximum emotional response, is a hallmark of a great Soul singer and it is no wonder she has been voted for UK artist of the Year in this year’s UK Americana awards. Even though she is a self-confessed Country girl, at her most powerful, she reminds a lot of Tracey Thorn out of ‘Everything But the Girl’ which is as high a praise I can muster.

'Cheats and Liars' is not afraid to vent at the hypocrisy that some of us have had to face over the last two years as well as taking the form of a Country standard, she mixes it well and left a unanimous crowd spellbound by the end. Credit must also go to a much disciplined band who are capable in their own right, but allow her voice to dominate proceedings. I took her recommendation and ordered a large whisky before leaving this classic and memorable gig.

Ivan De Mello