Sassy, now there’s a word I don’t find myself using much, but it was the first word that came to mind as Ellie Ingram walked on stage at Belgrave Music Hall for Live at Leeds.
Having sadly missed her last visit to Leeds in 2018, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this girl own the stage – and own it she certainly does. There’s a manner in which Ellie performs which you really need to see for yourself to fully appreciate; an intriguing blend of soulful elegance and cheeky sex appeal that you seldom see rolled up into one very special package. Marry that with one of the most sublime voices around and you have something quite extraordinary.
Some artists noticeably try, some try hard, some harder still. Ellie doesn’t, but not in a lazy or not giving a monkey’s kind of way; she doesn’t need to and that shows from the moment she starts to sing, to sing in a way that grabs you by the proverbials and doesn’t let go. When you are covering big festivals, it’s rare that you see any act out from start to finish. I can count those I have over the years without using all my fingers, but Ellie Ingram at Live at Leeds has now joined that list. I had places to be, and things I really should have been doing but like the pull of a tractor beam that voice, that stage presence, prevented me from leaving. It’s a bit cliche to say I could never tire of listening to her, but I’m not sure I could or ever would.
Ellie’s 2017 debut long player was an almost permanent feature in my playlist that year, but if there’s any criticism at all it’s actually the lack of material. During one of her many humorous between-song anecdotes, she explained she had earlier Googled when her album had been released, clearly a surprise to her and a reminder to us that it really shouldn’t have been 2 years since recording any new material. However, the packed and most appreciative room at Belgrave was treated to a new track which went all the way to dispel any fears that Ellie might be another one album wonder.
I’ll be taken to task for this by some, but for my money, she’s arguably the most underrated singer alive and kicking in the UK right now. Sure, you can hear the obvious influences by the likes of Winehouse, Hill or Badu, but it’s by no means imitation. With the exception of Erykah Badu, I’ve seen each of them live and Ellie could stand shoulder to shoulder with any of those artists comfortably. I’m just not sure she believes she could.
There is an honesty and an openness to Ellie that you rarely find in artists who really and sometimes overly, believe in themselves. That belief often turns into narcissism and an overwhelmingly inflated opinion of one’s own ability. In a way maybe it’s a good thing that Ellie remains grounded the way she does. This was demonstrated perfectly whilst during another of her stories, she explained her father’s adultery had been the influence behind one of the songs and for sure it’s the reason she performs the way she does. The word she used to describe her father isn’t repeatable, not here anyway; you had to be there.
As I endure the agonising wait for her new material, I urge you to give her back catalogue a listen and, better still, keep a lookout for any live dates. It was clear to us all that Ellie enjoyed being back on the scene. All being well, we’ll be seeing and hearing more of her soon.
Photography by Rose McLaughlin.