Gig review: ELLES BAILEY – Cambridge Junction 2, Tuesday 23 November 2021

A natural born storyteller, Elles Bailey also has the sort of voice that could make angels weep and this combination is like a siren draw into her endlessly colourful and wonderful world. Back on the road now after an extended layoff due to the birth of her first child and the small matter of a global pandemic, the singer is making a welcome return to the live arena and her stop in the ancient University city of Cambridge had the spires ringing.


It was a very relaxed Bailey that strolled onto stage as the band broke into opening number ‘The Game’, its blend of Country swing and sultry Blues like honey to the senses, following number ‘Stones’ full of Delta slide and sensuality.

Dipping into a song she recorded during the first national lockdown, Otis Redding’s ‘Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You’ was an early treat in the set and it’s a testament to Bailey’s talent that she can take on such a soul classic and make it entirely her own. Keeping the heart respectfully there but adding her own pallete of shades, the singer dug deep as Johnny Hipperson’s keys sparkled throughout.

The midnight cool of torch song ‘What’s the Matter With You?’, the hip swaying shuffle of ‘Help Somebody’ and the bluesy country of a sophisticated walk through of ‘Riding Out the Storm’ had the audience hanging on every word and phrase, the theatre-like space transported into an intimate club.

Stripped back to just vocals and the acoustic guitar of Joe Wilkinson, ‘Walk Away’ and John Prine’s ‘I Remember Everything’ provided a chance to really absorb the songs, the latter being particularly powerful as it brought home just what an incredible artist the sadly missed legend is, his way with words and a melody sublime.

It was then quite a leap from the gentle peace of the short acoustic set to the acerbic polemic of ‘Cheats and Liars’, Bailey railing against the injustice of society where the ‘haves’ constantly use the ‘have nots’ for their own gain, the band kicking up serious amounts of dust.

Following that, the brilliantly harmony filled ‘Miss Me When I’M Gone’ and ‘When I Go Away’ were a honeyed balm before the beautiful and heart breaking ‘When I Go Away’ hit home with lyrics that Bailey said were equally suited to heartbreak or views of Brexit.

Finishing the set with the sublime soul of ‘Halfway House’, a powerfully brooding Southern Rock of ‘Medicine Man’ and the shuffling groove of ‘Sunshine City’, the band left the stage to a standing ovation from all in the packed venue.

An encore was, thus, inevitable and ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ gave the chance to the band to have their moments in the spotlight, each taking a solo as Elles sat in the audience, noticeably appreciative of the talent of her co-creators of the night’s musical feast, all coming together to provide a maelstrom at the end of the song.

A fine way to end an evening of exquisite Americana tinged blues and a promise of even bigger things in store for the hugely talented, instantly likeable and very charismatic Bailey.

Review by Paul Monkhouse

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