It’s 7:25pm on a Wednesday. Alongside a couple of friends, I’m sitting inside the Yacht Club on Euclid grabbing a cold beverage. At the Variety Playhouse down the street, the opening band is getting ready to begin its set. I say goodbye to one of my friends and begin making my way toward the venue with the other.
Inside, sifting our way through the packed out lines for the concessions, I hear muted tones emanating from the main room. The Clear Plastic Mascs does a pretty good job at warming up the crowd with an almost shoegaze approach to grungy hard rock. The prevalent and soulful organ provides a driving gospel vibe.
Elle King walks onto the stage to a packed out house, which suddenly explodes with delight. She walks out with total confidence and plenty of sass to spare. The beginning of the set starts with a good dose of blues influenced rock and roll. Her high pitched vocals possess a sultry quality that really captivates my ears.
In between songs, Elle works the crowd with the skill of a trained comedienne. Being the daughter of Rob Schneider, this comes as no surprise. With hilarious references to the late night shenanigans of the infamous Clermont Lounge, she keeps the energy moving and lighthearted.
At this point, her sound begins to slide into a more country focused direction. She plays a fantastic rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison”, upbeat and scratchy. There is a raw feminine power exuding from her very unique voice. Her song choice and style reflect truly traditional county sounds. At this moment, I’m really enjoying this look back to the past. I overhear a woman saying endearingly, “She is a hot mess!” and lighters making their way out of pockets and into the electric air.
The sound now heads to the beach. The band is playing a fusion of reggae and country two-beat feel which totally changes the way the room feels. After this little vacation, we head back to the blues. “Chain smokin’, hard drinkin’ woman,” basically summing up her persona on the stage. This bit gets the crowd singing along jovially. Her big hit “Ex’s and Oh’s” starts, shifting us into a dirty rock and roll reveling.
Elle ends the show with an encore of “America’s Sweetheart” with grit and her phenomenal powerhouse of a voice. Her fans sing every word, showing their genuine admiration. Delivering a great show with the personality of a diva, yet still seeming down to earth must be difficult, but Elle manages to accomplish this effortlessly and with joy.
Photos by Savanna St. Clair