London band Eliza And The Bear arrived in Manchester on 15th April 2016 to play a sold out show at the Manchester Academy in support of their recently released debut album (self-titled).
If you don’t know much about the Academy in Manchester, I suggest you set off 30 minutes early with easy access to google maps. The venue itself is actually situated in the Student’s Union next door, causing a few baffled punters standing on the steps of the locked Academy doors, wondering where the party was about to begin.
As I finally walked through the doors of Academy 3 I was greeted with the familiar sounds of Dundee band Model Aeroplanes as they filled the stage with tropical melodies that warmed the already heated room. Their floppy hair fell into their eyes as they played effortlessly, bringing visions of idyllic summer festivals to the dark April night, reminding us that cheery days in the sunshine are never far away.
“I hope you’re all sufficiently warmed up for Eliza And The Bear…” lead singer Rory Fleming-Stewart said tentatively, although he needn’t have worried; there was never any doubt that the crowd were ready to enjoy the night. It’s easy to see the appeal of such a bright young band; they’re cheerful and fun, allowing you to forget the stresses of the day with vibrant, indie tunes and cool melodies. We were melting into the songs as the room got warmer; Model Aeroplanes performed ‘Toothache’ from their latest EP ‘Something Like Heaven’ and left the stage with an army of new fans cheering them on.
As the bands changed over, the stereo played the kind of classic pop songs from 15 years ago that everyone knows the words to; ‘Sk8er Boi’, ‘What I Go To School For’ and ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ were just some of the tunes that the entire Academy sang along to, demonstrating the unbelievably good mood that washed over the room as we waited for the headline act.
Eliza And The Bear greeted Manchester with ‘Light It Up’, an anthemic song that set the tone of the night from the very beginning. The chorus allows the audience to sing along as loudly as they can, clapping to its beat and cheering with unashamed enthusiasm. The London band have perfected their style in the five years it took to release their debut album but it was worth the wait. Their set was comprised entirely of songs that were worthy of stadiums, each one building up to a magnificent crescendo that other bands can only dream of.
Eliza And The Bear’s debut album was only released a week ago but it seemed that everyone already knew the words, singing along passionately as they jumped and danced around the crowded room, thoroughly enjoying themselves as the band played through ‘Upon The North’, ‘Where Have You Been’, and ‘Brother’s Boat’.
“Are you still with us?” lead singer James Kellegher asked, knowing the answer before the deafening cheers washed over him. Their keys player Callie Noakes had recently discovered the synth functions on his instrument so the room allowed him to indulge in the spontaneous jam that was more Magaluf than Manchester, sending the room wild before going back to the arranged setlist. ‘I’m On Your Side’ brought us back to reality, offering us a moment of reflection as Eliza And The Bear’s unwavering faith in others became apparent in the profound lyrics.
There’s something remarkably uplifting about this band, as their hit single ‘Lion’s Heart’ sent us in a mad frenzy before slowing it down again for their last song ‘Cruel’. We were ordered to hold our phones and lighters in the air for this one, blinding the band as the venue lit up like a Christmas tree.
To encourage a final encore, lead singer James instructed us to chant “Cockney Scum” when the band left the stage yet Manchester had a better idea: the entire room sang DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby’ at thundering volume, earning laughs of appreciation from the band as they returned to sing their most famous songs ‘It Gets Cold’ and ‘Friends’.
The incredible night ended too soon but I couldn’t see a disappointed face anywhere. Drunk girls were drawing love hearts on bathroom mirrors with lipstick and the crowd carried on singing as they made their way through the venue, stopping at the merch desk for a photo with the bands that had captured their emotions so easily. It was one of the most impressive gigs I’d been to in a while as Eliza And The Bear made it feel like we were dancing with friends, not strangers, and it’s a night I’ll treasure for a very long time.