Sunday 10 September 2023

Ellen Beth Abdi - Manchester Soup - 8th September 2023

Ellen Beth Abdi's first headline show packed out the basement of Soup in Manchester's Northern Quarter despite currently having no released material. Performing tracks from her debut album and more over a seventy minute set she impressed the audience with the breadth of material and her showstopping voice.

Two songs in, one of Ellen's friends walks forward with a handwritten banner that says something along the lines of "good singing, yeah" which makes Ellen laugh when she's already almost cried at the size of the audience that's come to see her debut headline show. There's much more to Ellen than a voice though as she demonstrates with this set of songs, many of which we later learn she wrote in her bedroom at home at her Mum and Dad's who stand near us like proud parents.

There's a real variety to these songs. There's some with just Ellen and her voice looped, building, echoing, contrasting, songs that feel like short snippets of creativity rather than following traditional song structures, tender ballads with soft drums, synths and double bass, big soaring instrumentals that get the front rows moving and songs like the standout Kingsway Bouquet that fuse many different styles as well as a wonderful soulful jazzy cover of What's Wrong With Groovin'. In fact, if anything, Ellen's problem may well come when industry folks try and pigeonhole her as they like to do as the way in which she and her band glide effortlessly from style to style defies easy categorisation.

What draws people in, other than the voice, is the genuine love and belief in what she's doing. Often you watch an artist who seems bored performing, Ellen's beaming smile never leaves her face all the time she's on stage, any initial nerves wiped out by the roaring response that builds as the set progresses. A few talkers need telling mid-set, because something this adventurous isn't for those who want a short fix of what they're used to, but they shut up quickly and allow the rest of us to admire an exceptionally talented young woman who's set for bigger stages than this if the industry can deal with her.

Ellen Beth Abdi is on Facebook and Twitter.

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