22nd October 2008
Elbow arrive on stage with instruments and arms held purposely aloft. This band have slowly been building a solid following since your correspondent was a lad, and now, finally vindicated with big prizes and movie-soundtrack deals, you could perhaps forgive them for a touch of smugness.
But there’s nonesuch from Guy Garvey et al, despite playing to an audience of over 1,500, the between song banter is akin to that in a smoky pub – If pubs were allowed to be smoky anymore.
In the midst of the songs themselves though, Elbow know that they’re here to put on a show, and ‘Starlings’ is a suitable opener, not only managing to be both funky and tingly, but enhanced by the presence of a scantly-clad backing group armed with day-glo maracas.
Elbow also know how to create an atmosphere, one of the most exhilarating The Fly has experienced for some time, and this without the need for pyrotechnic instrumentation. They create peaks and troughs that bring a sigh to your heart and a drill to your teeth. Elbow supply poetry and depth without the self-pity. Emotion is a dirty word these days, but they do it with dignity and pathos.
The lyrics are subtle and the music big but not overwhelming. The bass of Pete Turner puts meat on the bones of what they do, Guy’s voice, with both passion and range, more than carries the emotion, while the combined instrumentation of the rest of them keep the audience tense and pleased.
They promise to return to the stage for an encore providing we, the audience, sing them something ‘local’. The Fly’s suggestion is ‘The Trumpton Riots’ by Half Man Half Biscuit, but Elbow opt for ‘Hey Jude’. The audience are not backwards about coming forward in the singing request though, as might be expected, there’s a quick fast-forward to the ‘Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Nas’, and they seem to go on forever. Still, it helps cement the audience together, which it already pretty much is despite its diversity from freshers to labourers that form the diverse Elbow fanbase.
After they return, ‘Some Riot’ brings us to new heights and we end spectacularly on ‘Scattered Black and Whites’. In the time Elbow have taken to get to this triumphant show at Liverpool University, thousands of next big things have crashed and burned. We’ve always said, it’s best to do it the slow way, and we think Elbow will still be giving us breathtaking music for many years to come.
By Kenn Taylor