When the Elles Bailey tour was announced, it was noticeable that the Special Guests slots would be divided between Brave Rival and Norfolk’s Morganway. Some of you may have already read my views on the former, so one was eagerly anticipating another collection of equally gifted artists at KKs Steel Mill.
KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 14 March 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
Rather like Bywater Call on the earlier Robert John and The Wreck tour, we did not get the full band but a stripped-back version which again provided a tantalising teaser of the talents of the full line-up. To talk fractions for a moment, we went from 2/7 to 2/3 with the semi-acoustic quartet of SJ on Vocals, brothers Kieran and Callum Morgan on Electric and Acoustic Guitars, respectively, and Nicole on the fiddle.
Introduced by none other than Elles herself, opener My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You exemplified how this was going to pan out. I would summarise their sound as a hybrid of dynamic Americana, mid-period U2 with that ‘spatial’ guitar sound, huge folk elements, a pinch of Coldplay, crowned with a commanding lead female voice and exquisite combined harmonies.
From the moment SJ opened up on the seductive Come Over, the power and clarity she possessed was clearly evident. Her voice perfectly complements and bookends Kieran’s soaring breaks, as though one feeds the other. Let us not forget Nicole, whose impact in this format is much higher in the mix and totally immense.
The catchy Let Me Go saw the pace increase. The coda saw the delightful interplay one had hoped for between the electric and violin. Not that it was lacking in any form, but this is a number that really needs the percussion to propel it along. The instruments fused to such a perfect crescendo that the audience finally cracked and truly warmed to them
With increasing confidence, SJ enquired whether Wolverhampton was up for a sing-song. The similarly perky World Stopped Running saw Callum take over on vocals, and its ‘Wooooahh Woooaaahh’ refrain was a safe number to attempt crowd participation and did elicit a decent response.
Wait For Me was the number that saw SJ really let rip, reaching then sustaining notes that left the audience open-jawed.
Alanis Morissette classic You Oughta Know followed. I would love to hear the full band attack this. That said, I would love to hear the full band tackle all of this set.
The Gaelic Folk influence peaked on London Life, which again saw Callum at the mic. “I’ll get lost in London Life,” he sang, certainly a sentiment that I have allied to in the past.
Set closer, Hurricane, was an out-and-out rocker, with SJ delivering, dare I say it, with the power and passion of JJ. “I can’t go on talking to the moonlight” is a perfect line from a restless spirit. Kieran really set his guitar to stun on this one, and what a cracker to finish on.
Quality songwriting adapted and immaculately executed to generate foot tapping and booty shaking aplenty. I adored the juxtaposition of the electric guitar and the fiddle, with the latter often appearing where the traditional six-string solo would.
As the notes faded, the band just stood there and absorbed the atmosphere, their first time in Wolverhampton and surely not their last.
You can read the Ells Bailey review, here.
Vocals – SJ Mortimer
Lead Guitar – Kieran Morgan
Fiddle – Nicole Terry
Keys – Matt Brocklehurst
Bass – Callum Morgan
Drums – Ed Bullinger
- My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You
- Come Over
- Let Me Go
- World Stopped Running
- Wait For Me
- You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette cover)
- London Life