LIVE: Eliza and the Bear @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge

By Yasmin Brown

Some music is made to be played live, and Eliza and the Bear’s current catalogue is a fine example. While their music falls somewhat flat on record, their live shows provide more energy and complexity than you could ever get from listening to their music on Spotify.

With main support provided by the lovely Lauran Hibberd (allegedly spelt with an ‘A’ because her dad spelt it wrong on the birth certificate), the night gets off to a charming start in the tiny pub venue. Making the room sparkle with her golden co-ord, Lauran wins the crowd over with endearing anecdotes that precede each song, continuing to impress us with her sharp yet sweet vocals.

Eliza and the Bear take to the stage next – their second time playing The Portland Arms – and while they take time to get the crowd going, it’s clear that, collectively, they love to perform. And all in all, they’re pretty damn good at it, too. Their live success comes from a combination of on-stage banter between members, the tightness with which they play together, and the boundless energy they each exude. Their friendship clearly facilitates their talent as a band and certainly makes for a more enjoyable show as they frequently poke fun at one another.

The set is an effective mix of old and new material, ensuring the crowd remain engaged throughout as they sing along to old favourites. A number of extended instrumental outros showcase the band’s musical talents incredibly well, and while they’re relatively new to the scene (their second album is due to be released in October), they certainly have a lot of potential as a touring band.

Technically, the sound is stronger during the quieter moments than the heavier break downs – likely as a result of the size of the venue and sound equipment rather than the band themselves. Despite this though, and despite the disappointing overuse of backing tracks throughout, it’s an incredibly entertaining performance, reaching its peak as the band improvise covers of Fall Out Boy’s ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’, My Chemical Romance’s ‘I’m Not Okay’, and a short instrumental of AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’.

The show closes out with Eliza and the Bear’s biggest track to date, ‘Friends’, which has the packed, now sweaty, room enthusiastically chanting, “I got friends, I got family here” in unison until the final notes play out.