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Elles Bailey, Trinity Centre Bristol

Elles Bailey’s voice is truly something special – it’s equal parts raw and refined, fused with a real depth and emotionality, a heady blend of Stevie Nicks and Dusty Springfield.


Her range as a vocalist is truly impressive, but it’s not just her voice that make her so spellbinding on stage as witnessed last night at the Trinity Centre in Bristol. Her backing band is equally talented, with tight rhythms and soaring guitar solos that add depth and texture to each track.


What also sets her apart as an artist is her ability to seamlessly blend genres, incorporating elements of blues, soul, rock, and country into her music in a way that feels organic and authentic.


Her songs, often written with a number of other songwriters, are both deeply personal and universally relatable, with lyrics that speak to the human experience in a way that’s both heartfelt and introspective.


It was a very relaxed Elles that strolled onto stage as the band broke into opening number ‘The Game’, its blend of country swing and sultry blues, followed by the bluesy hues of the no-nonsense ‘Stones’ full of sumptuous slide guitar and sensuality.


Over the past few years, Bristol-based, multi-award winning singer/songwriter Elles has climbed to the top of the British blues and roots scene and confidently crossed genre borders into wider territory.


This year alone, she's picked up two awards from the prestigious UK Americana 2023 Awards and this week three from the UK Blues Awards.


Fully a year on from the release of ‘Shining in The Half Light’ Elles, has seized the opportunity to finally showcase this phenomenal album and dipping into her back catalogue and classy covers with a series of dates across the UK.


Elles greeted her home town crowd at the Trinity Centre in Bristol last night as if she knows each and everyone on an individual basis; that’s the genuine beauty of this humblest of souls.


The rich old-time soulful accents of the ever-romantic ‘Colours Start To Run’ captivates with Elles gravelly-edged vocals complementing her band’s bluesy output, with Joe Wilkins' slick solo and Demi Mariner’s stunning backing vocals.


Continuing to delve into ‘Shining In The Half Light’ the haunting inflections of the album’s title track are presented in all their ethereal glory.


‘Spinning Stopped’ is an absolute tear-jerker of a song and conveys the evolutions and wonderment of motherhood in the grips of the maelstrom of a pandemic. Utterly soulful to its nucleus, the divine acoustic six-strings presented by Wilkins complement her vocals to perfection.


She covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long As I Can See The Light” and it was a stunner. It’s always a risky move to cover such an iconic song, but Elles truly makes it her own, infusing it with her own unique style and energy. As phone lights add to the atmosphere Joe’s guitar sparks into a kaleidoscope of southern grooves.


One of the things that makes Elles' cover so special is the way she manages to capture the essence of the original while still putting her own spin on it. Her vocals are both haunting and soulful, with a raw emotionality that brings new life to the lyrics.


But what really sets it apart is the way she manages to bring a sense of intimacy and vulnerability to the track. You can feel the emotion pouring out of every note, and it’s clear that she’s truly invested in the material she’s covering. It’s a testament to her talent and artistry that she can take such a beloved song and make it feel fresh and new.


The heartbreak tale of 'Halfway House' is followed by a superb rendition of the politically infused 'Cheats and Liars', a southern freight-train of a song which recalls the manner in which the government “sold the arts down the river” during the pandemic.


This is followed by another killer cover - John Martyn’s ‘Over The Hill’ - a poignant and honest song of homecoming, which explores the conflicts between freewheeling, carousing, rebellious travelling life, and the commitments and value of home and family.


Elles' version is a foot-tapping, drive faster kind of a twist on the original. With an express rhythm and an up-tempo country shuffle this track is one of so many standout moments throughout over 90 minutes of high-end musicianship.


'Hole In My Pocket' is a cheeky little number which is another belter and the Muscle Shoals tribute 'Help Somebody' with prominent Hammond organ keys interweaving with Elles’ crystal vocals. We are also treated to Chris Buck from Cardinal Black bringing his superb guitar playing to the band on an handful of tracks.


‘Medicine Man’ rolls into town driven by a sultry, dusty wind that cuts to the soul.


The show closer and deltaland blues of 'Riding Out The Storm' has Elles dancing out stage front whilst the band hotfoot through a blistering jam.


Rammed full of emotion Elles moves to a searing rendition of Mary Gauthier’s incredibly powerful ‘Mercy Now’ for the encore, which has the Trinity Centre audience spellbound even though she modestly confesses with a laugh to "still not getting all the lyrics right after singing it 19 times."


Finishing the set with the powerful, sing-along cracker ‘Sunshine City’, all shuffling groove, rousing and celebratory, the band left the stage to an ovation from all in the packed venue.


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.


There's so very much to love about her passion and musical drive, this genuine artist, has a bright future. Catch her if you can on her next tour.




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