To maybe two dozen people, opening band Viola Beach take to the stage and do their best to engage the room and warm them up ahead of the main event. The drum beat and instrumentation is sharp and catchy and largely the best thing about the group as they move around the tiny space, so it’s a shame that the vocals are often lost in the sea of noise. There’s a hint of The ‘early years’ Fratellis about the band, and that in itself is a good thing, although the reception they receive after each number is far quieter than what they had likely hoped for. The long winded instrumentals performed at the end of some of their tracks is unnecessary as are the guitarists seeming to think they’re members of legendary rock bands such as Motley Crue as they all but hack at their instruments. Closing number and new single ‘Swings And Waterslides’ is quite possibly the best number in their set but regardless, they exit to polite, subdued applause and a growing crowd eager for the headliners to put in an appearance.
The LaFontaines, hailing from Scotland, fare much better, despite it being almost impossible to make out the lyrics to EVERY song they perform. Front-man Kerr Okan regular interacts with the audience, which proves hugely beneficial as within minutes, he has the crowd in the palm of his hand, getting them to clap and jump around at his instruction. Also putting in a strong effort is Mike Cassidy, who is standing in for absent bassist and vocalist John Gerrard – with only twelve hours under his belt as a member of the group, he plays like he’s been with them from the beginning; not an easy thing to do but he pulls it off with aplomb. The only thing that doesn’t work so well is Okan calling for people to get down low (which in fairness they do), and then jump up again – it’s something bands such as Thirty Seconds To Mars have done in the past much better and tonight, it just doesn’t fit with the group or their set. Despite this, they are cheered and applauded warmly as they exit.
By the time Eliza And The Bear make their way on stage, the small venue is packed and the excitement level has reached fever pitch. They begin with ‘Lion Heart’ and proceed to deliver a set which is energetic, poppy, catchy and downright fun to watch and sing along to. ‘Light It Up’ and ‘Brother’s Boat’ maintain the fun, upbeat style of things, while the crowd who have since edged forward, eager to get as close to the group as they can, smile, dance in whatever small space they can find, and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The announcement that their self-titled debut album will be released in February of next year is met with wild applause and cheers and the band proceed to perform a number of tracks from the upcoming collection including ‘Make It On My Own’ which moves away from the cheery kind of songs the band are known for and instead shows off the more serious, gritty side to their music. It makes a refreshing break in the set and goes down particularly well. Meanwhile, ‘Talk’ proves just how far the band have come during their time together as the song highlights how they have matured in terms of their musicianship and song-writing – here are a band who are determined to get bigger and better, and tonight they do a really, really good job of it.
“You know how this works,” says front-man James Kellegher. “We’re going to walk off after this song, you’re going to go mental and within two seconds we’ll be back.” The song he refers to is called ‘Cruel’ and is the most balladesque the band deliver which isn’t surprising as it was originally written to be played acoustically, but tonight, it’s played out full band style and it’s the highlight of the night by far. Sure enough, the band disappear off stage and the crowd erupts into cheers and shouts for them to return, which they quickly do to close out the night with two final numbers, ‘Friends’ and ‘It Gets Cold’. By the time the final note echoes around the tiny room, the crowd are cheering and whistling their appreciation and there’s no doubt Eliza And The Bear have put on a great show.