On a chilly Monday night in York the Satellite Tour came to the Duchess. This was the place to go for a cure to that Monday feeling and it did not disappoint.
As a new tour on the circuit introducing relatively new artists to the UK’s smaller venues, the challenge was always going to be establishing that connection with an audience who are not all familiar with the music. Both have to make the effort to engage, especially with the intensity that intimate venues can bring.
Sons and Lovers had the unenviable task of breaking the ice but grew into their set and ended on a high with their new single ‘Ghosts’ (an extremely catchy, if slightly repetitive, pop anthem). The London based four-piece have an eclectic pop/rock sound with a very distinctive vocal. The turning point came with the stripped back opening of ‘It’s All For You’ where lead singer Tom Lillywhite stood alone at the front, his voice finally commanding the room rather than being drowned out by the clamour of the guitars, drums and bass. The band have great energy, catchy hooks and a very British charm and it didn’t take them long to win the crowd over.
Fred Page was the perfect antidote to the high-octane beginning. This was the 23 year old Londoner’s first tour and his stage manner had a quiet and endearing vulnerability. His voice is a smooth purr which melts through the air and captivates the listener. The audience was deadly silent, transfixed by the mesmerising quality of his performance. The gentle acoustic sound allowed his voice and song-writing to take central stage, with ‘Wars’ and ‘Concrete’ being particularly memorable. He even invited Martin Dukelow of Eliza and the Bear on stage to assist him with a cover of John Mayer’s (in Fred’s words – ‘a very sexy man’) ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’.
After the intimacy and emotional investment required from Fred’s performance, Eliza and the Bear burst onto the stage with their indie/rock/folk/pop fusion. The five-piece are a group of male friends who took their name from a collection of poems by Eleanor Rees and began when lead singer and guitarist James Kellegher started playing because it gave him some respite from arthritis. There was certainly no sign of discomfort as they pelted out song after song with euphoria and exuberance, decorating the air with rousing melodies. They are effortlessly in synch with each other and their voices expertly fuse as a chorus. They even took time to perform ‘Happy Birthday’, with a trumpet, to one member of the audience. Part of their charm was how close they seem – they always looked like they were having the time of their lives. Keyboardist Callie Noakes in particular was a joy to watch, conjuring up extravagant melodies in between songs and playing his instrument as energetically as a keyboard can be played. ‘Friends’ and ‘It Gets Cold’ were the highlights of their performance, though their songs were all consistent in their jaunty, jolly character. They finished with the newest release – ‘It Gets Cold’ before sending us out into the – very cold – night.
It is easy to see why these were selected as promising acts of 2014, they are all difficult to pidgeon-hole and each bring a different energy to their performances. Most of all they are extremely likable, taking time after their sets to mingle with the crowd. It was a great opportunity to be introduced to some new music and it will be exciting to see where their careers go now we are acquainted.