Review: Ellen & The Escapades – Buffalo Bar, Cardiff

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Billed as the next big thing and winning all sorts of praise and plaudits in 2009, Ellen and the Escapades played Reading and Leeds festivals as well as three stages at Glastonbury, having won the Q Magazine emerging talent award the following year.

Things then went a little quiet for a while before the release of last year’s critically acclaimed All the Crooked Scenes. I had the good fortune of being sent to see them at The Buffalo Bar, one of my favourite Cardiff haunts.

Though Ellen & the Escapades were here supporting The Travelling Band on their current UK tour, the diminutive singer-songwriter and her Leeds-based band mates instantly had the interest and attention of the sixty or so punters who’d arrived in time for the start of their set. Opening with a pretty arresting version of the title track to their album, they played their way through a by now pretty tour-honed set including tracks from the album, current single This Ace I’ve Burned Without You and new song I Just Can’t Love You Anymore. It’s pretty rare to see people mouthing the words to the support band’s songs but there was plenty of that in evidence tonight including a couple at the front, fresh from the merch stand, clutching their vinyl copies of All the Crooked Scenes and drooling with adoration.

They describe themselves as ‘alternative folk’ but for a young band from Northern England they sounded, at times, so Country & Western that it felt like being on the set of Any Which Way But Loose. The lyrics and song titles sound more fitting to mid-west America than to their Leeds home. But Ellen delivers them with such an assured and casual confidence, electing not to win the audience over with chat and charm, but letting the songs do the talking. In fact, “Is anyone going to Green Man this year? You should, we’re playing!” was pretty much all she said other than politely thanking the swelling crowd for listening.

They took a bit of a kitchen sink approach, with everyone playing all over everything. Ellen and keyboard player, Chris Quick, sharing harmonica duties on top of the acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboard and drums – which left Ellen’s beautiful husky voice few opportunities to shine through the slightly one dimensional dynamics. Yet, it didn’t seem to bother the majority of the growing audience who greeted the end of the band’s set with whoops, whistles and shouts for an encore which they would sadly be unable to provide tonight.