Ellen and the Escapades

Live Review | The Boardwalk, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Leeds-based Ellen and the Escapades kicked off their very first UK tour at the Boardwalk in Sheffield tonight with a confident performance, despite having one man down due to illness.  Depping for bassist Andy Calder was fellow Leeds-based singer-songwriter, drummer and all round good bloke Gary Stewart, who learned the entire repertoire over the seven days leading up to this gig, whilst learning to play the bass at the same time.  Promoting their new Of All the Times EP, which was released yesterday, just in time for the start of the tour, the band played an all too short forty-minute set, headlining a showcase night featuring two other bands, together with a solo spot from the aforementioned Gary Stewart, who kicked the night off singing a selection from his debut album Boy Cries Wolf.  All four songs from the new EP were aired tonight including the instantly catchy “Preying On Your Mind” to the blues-drenched and utterly soulful “Yours To Keep”, together with performances of “Run”, “The Promise”, “When the Tide Creeps In” and “Nothing To Lose”, featuring the wizardry of Californian guitarist Jeff Schneider.  Completing the Escapades line-up was Chris Quick on keyboards and harmonica and James Warrender on drums.  It has to be said that the focal point of the band is the enigmatic Ellen Smith, whose unique voice gives the band its distinctive style.  Quiet, unassuming and rather shy, the singer seems most comfortable when stepping up to the microphone to deliver her songs rather than engaging in too much conversation or casual banter.  Earlier in the evening Gary invited Ellen up on stage during his set to duet on his Spanish-influenced “Behind the Door”, precisely as she did in the studio a few months ago.  This was probably the first and only moment during the night that the audience afforded the musicians a bit of quiet.  Once the song started and the mobile phone was located and switched off, the room fell into a moment of appreciative silence.  The two bands that were sandwiched between Gary’s opening set and Ellen and the Escapades headlining performance, raised the volume and as a consequence the volume of the chit-chat increased.  I may be old fashioned, or maybe just old, but if you raise your voice above that of the singer, then you are rude and should probably be in another room playing pool.  With that slight criticism, it only leaves me to ponder upon which Ellen and the Escapades gig I will be trying to catch next; I want to hear THEM and not the girls and boys out on the razzle.