Elbow are set to have a rather busy summer -they’re part of the Reading/Leeds line-up and what looks set to be a great Glastonbury year. What’s more, the band have just released their fifth album Build A Rocket Boys!, the follow up to the hugely successful The Seldom Seen Kid, to critical acclaim. So, nearing the end of their arena tour have the fans begun to love the new tracks as much as the old classics?
Mercury nominated Villagers prove a popular support act with their mysterious, haunting songs from their debut album Becoming a Jackal. Impeccable performances from all five and a good choice of tracks- ‘The Meaning of a Ritual’, ‘The Pact’, ‘That Day’ and ‘Becoming a Jackal’ being the stand outs- earned them a positive reception from the crowd. I’d definitely like to see them as a headline act which is the best result for any support act, their weirdness wasn’t as overt as you’d imagine from the album, despite the wolf-like howling in ‘Pieces’.
But when Elbow take to the stage, holding aloft half empty pints, and begin with ‘The Birds’ from the new album, the arena explodes and melts. Guy Garvey fills the O2 with his warmth and good humour as well as his stunning voice. He strides about the stage with confidence and it’s obvious how much he loves performing to crowds like this. He has a natural, genuinely funny rapport with the fans, the sort of front man everyone would love to go down the pub with- and you can imagine that he’d be happy to do so. Dressed smartly but also managing to look sweetly shabby, his charisma has everyone glued to his every movement, he could practically have everyone’s hands in the air with a look.
The band have a plethora of tracks that are simply made for arena gigs, ‘Open Arms’, ‘Neat Little Rows’, ‘Starlings’, ‘The Bones of You’ are storming and brilliant- ‘Grounds for Divorce’ is sublime, allowing the band to rock out, even Garvey gets a drum to batter. And the contrasting quiet moments were beautifully restrained; ‘The Night Will Always Win’ was spine-tingling, ‘Lippy Kids’ a track destined to become an Elbow classic, was as good live as the recording, with the crowd echoing Garvey’s whistle. Tracks from The Seldom Seen Kid were equally brilliant, including ‘Mirrorball’, which demonstrates the skill of the strings section who are involved in much of Elbow’s music. Old favourites ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Puncture Repair’ had everyone in entranced silence, hanging on every lyric; these are the tracks that make ardent fans of Elbow fall in love with them and experiencing them live is incredible.
Euphoric crowd participation was also fairly constant, encouraged by Garvey who seemed to love how much their fans know and adore their songs: there were arms thrust in the air in many moments of unashamed bliss. When Garvey sings the line from ‘Weather to Fly’ ‘are we having the time of our lives?’ the crowd responds with yes and they mean it.
They return to the stage with a heartfelt encore of ‘Station Approach’, which Garvey introduces as ‘a track about our home, but you can use it for yours any time you like’. They end with an amazing performance of ‘One Day Like This’, a track even non-Elbow fans will know. It’s a glorious anthem that is exhilarating and joyful. Everybody, from those standing at the front where we were, to the people sitting in the furthest seats in the stalls were united, clapping and singing along to this perfect final song. Elbow at their best, leaving the band and the crowd with adoring grins on their faces as they departed. Elbow are national treasures, and whenever they announce more gigs, I’m buying tickets!
Good: There’s nothing better than seeing your favourite band live with thousands of equally devoted fans.
Bad: I honestly can’t fault Elbow’s perfect night!