Ellen and the Escapades – Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds, 13th June 2014 1

Ellen and the Escapades – Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds, 13th June 2014

Ellen and the Escapades do not believe in superstition. Why else would you choose to launch your new single on Friday the 13th on an evening when there is a full moon rising. It is patently clear that the Leeds’ five-piece are a band who are more than happy to tempt fate.

Ellen and the Escapades first hove into wider view courtesy of their triumph in the 2010 Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Their debut album All The Crooked Scenes – a warm, expressive and most accomplished piece of work that drew widespread acclaim yet precious little commercial success – followed two years later and for the past eight months they have been bunkered in the studio recording its follow up.

‘Lost Cause’ is the first single to be taken from that as yet unnamed record and it is to Leeds’ Hyde Park Picture House that we all head tonight to mark its official unveiling. It seems entirely 010aapposite that this beautiful Edwardian venue should be the place for its launch as both it and the music of Ellen and the Escapades are steeped in the grandest of traditions. Both hark back to a forgotten time – in EATE’s case it is the great heritage of country, folk and the blues – though not at the expense of some misty-eyed, sepia-tinged nostalgia. Both have their eyes firmly fixed on the present and the future.

The evening begins with the genial Gary Stewart showcasing his recently purchased 1967 Gibson Parlour guitar and considerable talent. Travelling a road that lies somewhere between Paul Simon, Robin Williamson and Mike Heron he performs a clutch of his own songs – of which ‘Watertight’ is a particular highlight – with considerable warmth and charm.

Twenty minutes later he has returned in his role as the Escapades’ bass guitarist as the band launch straight into ‘Follow You Down’ – one of several new songs the band will perform tonight – and a glorious fifteen song set that proves to be the perfect counterbalance between past and present. This is the sound of a band that has been energised by its absence. ‘When The Tide Creeps In’ and ‘This Ace I’ve Burned’ from their first album are revitalised. Imbued with a fresh confidence and swagger, these songs are realised as the flag bearers for returning heroes.

Freed from its studio moorings ‘Lost Cause’ is even more resounding; a clarion call for defiance in the face of adversity, it fills the auditorium with the band’s newly acquired muscular 062astrength. ‘I Just Can’t Love You Any More’ and the ensuing ‘I’ll Keep You Warm’ are both beautifully tender love songs, but it is perhaps another new song, ‘Long Road’ – also the B-side to the new single – that best measures the distance Ellen and the Escapades have come since they first emerged out of Leeds some six years ago. It would not have been remotely out of place at the recording sessions for Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk yet still sounds so very much fresh and alive. It announces Ellen Smith as a truly great voice – pitched somewhere alongside Stevie Nicks and 1970’s country legend Lynn Anderson – and reinforces the firm grasp that the Escapades have on acute pop sensibility.

A really quite magnificent evening of music is brought to a wonderful close with a richly deserved three song encore, the first of which is a sublime cover of R Kelly’s ‘The World’s Greatest’. There follows the sub-two minute splendour of ‘Coming Up Last’ before the band sign off for the last time tonight with a moving, life-affirming ‘Cast’.

Justice is a concept that is notoriously in very short supply in music. If there were to be any – and luck would have absolutely nothing to do with this whatsoever – by virtue of their talent alone, Ellen and the Escapades should be big. On this evening’s evidence alone this must surely only be a matter of time.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.