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Elbow live : Great Expectations fulfilled

April 6, 2014

  Just got back to Devon in thick fog and rain. Its looking like anything but a beautiful day.

This time last night, I was at Birmingham’s LG Arena (Hey I still call it the NEC. I passed my law exams at the NEC in 1986!) to see a band that is becoming one of my favourites. Elbow.

After a pub chicken jalfrezi and a quick change into my 2007 Genesis tour tee shirt ( I can transform myself to look pretty rock and roll sometimes) we arrive at the car park, the Vicar, the sister-in-law, the wife and yours truly. Car park horror stories proved to be unfounded and the shuttle bus whisked us to the arena.

As well to get the negatives of the evening out of the way. First stop the merch stand. I was in the market for a tee shirt but there were a lot of noses being turned up at the poor quality – we passed.

We had side seats which at times made us feel we were slightly out of the main action, and hey some of those musicians looked tiny. Also I was getting a stiff neck, But it was mainly about being there, so those issues are not to be dwelt on.

I’m not a big fan of support acts. Jimi Goodwin is obviously a friend of Elbow. I am not going to say on one listen there was any problem with the support band’s music. There were some good moments but I was drifting in and out. Honestly these guys are on a hiding to nothing. I was there to see Elbow. From Jimi’s point of view it sounded like he had some fans there. Good for him.

I am probably in that huge category of Elbow fans who discovered the band through the award winning ‘Seldom seen kid’, but I have all 7 studio albums, this is the first night of Elbow’s arena tour and comes less than 4 weeks after the release of their latest album ‘The Take off and Landing of Everything’.That album features heavily in  the setlist at the expense of ‘Build a Rocket Boys”and the first three studio discs, with only one song from ‘Leaders of the free world’, a corker of an album released before the band became ‘famous’.

At 8.45 the taped instrumental section of new album opener ‘This blue world’ brings the back screens to life (flying birds – maybe starlings?), the mini orchestra strikes up and Manchester’s finest take to the stage.

Guy Garvey & Co show the courage of their convictions and a confidence in their new tunes as 3 of the opening four  are from ‘Take Off’, starting with ‘Charge’. ‘Fly boy blue’ is the strongest of these new songs. In their small way the almost violent instrumental sections recollect King Crimson (‘Schizoid’?). ‘Real life (Angel)’ is another for the long list of uplifting melodic songs that Elbow do so well.

‘The Night will always win’ is one of only 3 forays into ‘Build a rocket boys’ (I miss your stupid face!). On reflection afterwards the low turn out from that CD surprises, but when the new stuff is so good there are bound to be some casualties. If I had to think of an omitted song that would improve the show I would struggle.

The single ‘New York Morning’ is followed by ‘Tower Crane Driver’ which produces my first goose bump moment of the night with the ‘send up a prayer in my name’ crescendo. Emotional stuff indeed.

Garvey works the crowd all night. He is the boy next door, no airs and graces. A very talented boy next door it must be said. He regularly uses a walk way from the main stage to a mini stage amongst the audience. That mini stage is home to one of the highlights of the night. Garvey is joined by a piano (I didn’t see it coming but someone must have!) Craig Potter takes his seat and is joined by Mark Potter on acoustic guitar. I would have chosen to hear a number of songs from ‘Leaders of the free world’, but if I was told I could only have one, it would be ‘Great Expectations’ and so it was, introduced by my new mate Guy as a song about the only wedding where the bride did not know she was getting married. In its intimate setting this just worked beautifully. Such a gorgeous romantic song, one that musically recalls ‘Entangled’ from Genesis’ ‘A Trick of the tail’.

Some of my followers will know I like virtuoso musicianship. Tonight there’s not a traditional guitar solo to be heard, but I am so impressed by the tightness of the musicianship, and full of inventive musical sounds. Craig Potter’s keys are a revelation, beautifully showcased at the piano on ‘Expectations’. Throughout the show the band is superbly augmented by the mini orchestra (not that I can really see them from my seat!).

New song ‘The Blanket of the Night’ is also played from the small stage, with the large stage musicians joining in.

Then its time for spine tingling. For more romantic. For sing along. ‘Mirrorball’. What a superb lyric! A delight. A highlight.

‘The Birds’ sounds more in your face than the album version. Another opportunity for the mini orchestra to shine and show some aggression..

The lighting throughout is superb. The Vicar worked for the BBC in a ‘previous life’ so he knows about this stuff and thoroughly approves the sound quality. He’s especially looking forward to ‘Lippy Kids’ but he’s being kept waiting.

As I would expect ‘Grounds for divorce’ is a crowd pleaser. Garvey taking his turn at a small drum kit at back of the stage.

‘My sad captains’ finishes the set. It has to be said it’s been ‘a perfect waste of time’.

Of course it’s not over. The Vicar still awaits his ‘Lippy’ and the wife tells her sister (both rock chicks in denim) that we need to have the song about “throwing those curtains wide”. 

After a gap so long even I start to worry, the taped ‘Starlings’ is completed by the band, and then Elbow make the Vicar’s night. Finally the so familiar ‘One Day Like This’ seems to make everyone’s night, not just the wife’s. It’s the big sing along number and it seems the night should never end (literally for some – see video of the train station after the gig – below).

This afternoon the family caught up with the final of the Voice. I mean, after Guy Garvey, how can anyone be called The Voice? He is THE VOICE and the X Factor all rolled into one. Elbow are a superb band. And they put on a wonderful show.

People told me it was so. This was my first time. Hopefully NOT the last.


From → Rock Music

One Comment
  1. Great review and great to discover another Christian on the Genesis forum. I went to see the band at Cardiff last night, incredible gig. Amazing how such a big venue became so intimate in Garvey’s hands. Yes he knows how to relate to a crowd and make them feel part of the show. Such a sense of community, hope, joy, togetherness. I did enjoy Jimi Goodwin too, but I am a fan of Doves to which he is the lead singer. But Elbow were in a different league altogether. An incredible night indeed.
    Blessings, Paul.

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