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  • Writer's pictureEllie Winter

Eliza and the Bear: The Bullingdon, Oxford

Rating: ★★★★

Indie-pop boys Eliza and The Bear are no strangers to the Bullingdon stage. 2014 saw the newly fledged group working to charm unfamiliar crowds as part of Communion Music’s New Faces Tour. Fast-forward two years to this Sunday however, and it’s a very different setup.

On this closing night of the band’s extensive UK tour, the Oxford crowd that once had to be coaxed forward now pressed excitedly against the stage barrier. The sparky charisma of the five-man band has started to catch. Their sunny sound is full of fresh lyrical optimism propelled forward by stomping rhythms and punchy choruses. A little one-dimensional maybe, and if you want a show that spans a broad emotional spectrum, don’t look for it here. But whilst Eliza and the Bear’s heart may not be on their sleeve, it’s the beat of one hell of a party.

The boys threw themselves into the festivities with awesome energy. Technical issues initially dampened the atmosphere between tracks, but soon celebrations hit full throttle. The act is still young, but they’ve grown into their skins. Two years on a hearty diet of gigs and recording has nurtured a strong performance of stability. Real onstage spontaneity only works with deep-set confidence, and these guys were totally free.

There is true potential here. In the fervent vitality of It Gets Cold and Talk we caught glimpses of brass bands and festival tents. Promising new track Cruel teased of the band’s upcoming debut album release (Self Titled, April 8th), taking a profound step back from their signature youthful beats. It’s the sound of a group that’s been around the block a few more times, and found a resilience that allows vulnerability. They’re ready, and it’s all within reach.

Eliza and the Bear: Friends (Satellite Tour Session, 2014)

It’s easy for the jaunty chanting of “I’ve got friends, I’ve got family here” to feel a bit over sweetened. Scoff if you want, but it’s actually true. These guys are as tight as it gets. Their voices blend brilliantly and their onstage cohesion is effortlessly committed. Even the head banging is oddly coordinated.

Eliza and the Bear brought it home with a triumphant encore. Supporting band Slowlights leapt spiritedly back onstage, with a bright-eyed eagerness endearingly reminiscent of the young Eliza. Everyone was accounted for, including the recently passed Viola Beach, to whom the final track Friends was dedicated. The night of playful camaraderie rounded off with a resounding a cappella duet between musicians and fans.

Thanks guys, we had a blast.

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