Ellen and the Escapades: An Exeter Phoenix Review…

Razz writer, Clara Plackett, gives her thought on the recent performance…

Preceding Ellen and the Escapades’ performance at the Exeter Phoenix on 27th February 2012 were a number of impressively good warm-up acts whose presence I had forgotten to expect.  The most memorable of these were the solo performances from Ella James and Gary Stewart.  Ella James kicked off the evening perfectly with some upbeat, folksy tunes, and captivatingly husky vocals.  For such a young performer, she really held her own on the stage, and it quickly became evident that the audience adored her.

image – ellenandtheescapades.com

Perhaps more impressive, however, was Scottish singer/songwriter Gary Stewart.  Though I was slightly sceptical about how much I would really enjoy relatively strange songs about the darker corners of Edinburgh, I was soon impressed with his strong, percussive guitar playing, and also his singing.  He was remarkably precise, his intonation being consistently accurate throughout his whole set, and his great range ensured that he appeared to be one of, if not the most talented, singers of the evening.  Inviting Chris Quick to duet with him definitely enhanced Stewart’s music, which I began to enjoy more and more, and his adaption of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence was subtly but interestingly different and still extremely moving.  For me he was a real highlight of the evening, and I will definitely be giving his debut album Boy Cries Wolf a listen.

I had not realised that Gary Stewart and Chris Quick would be on stage again playing for Ellen, but I am very glad that they were there to complete the Leeds-based folk quintet, which now sounded very different from the warm-up acts in volume and less like Mumford and Sons than I was expecting.  I loved Ellen’s voice mainly because it sounded so distinctly bluesy.  When the music became more frantic her voice always managed to exude a sense of calm, and this was helped by the band’s ability to be in tune with each other in more than the most literal sense.  James Warrender’s energetic drumming was crucial to my enjoyment of the whole evening, and Jeff Schneider’s guitar playing, complete with awesome vibrato, sounded brilliant.  Chris Quick’s harmonica solos in songs such as Without You also added a great sense of fun.  Ellen and the Escapades’ set was relaxing and entertaining, with songs like Coming Back Home To You being very well received.  Although at times I thought I enjoyed the warm-up acts just as much, I was surprised that there was not a bigger audience.  Their music is so accessible, and I would be happy to make the trip from Exeter to Bristol in April to see them play again.

For more shows and events at the Phoenix check out their website here.

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