Elbow, The O2, gig review
Thursday 17 April 2014
One singer, one pianist: stripped-back interludes may be a staple of arena rock gigs, proving the authenticity of mainstream acts, but for true intimacy you will struggle to beat Guy Garvey and keyboardist Craig Potter.
Apart from that pair, you can hear a pin drop during their haunting first verse of 'The Blanket Of Night', a plea for empathy with asylum seekers, before the rest of Elbow join in.
The Mancunian five-piece may have achieved national-treasure status by penning wedding staple 'One Day Like This', leading them to score the BBC's 2012 Olympic theme, yet this long-suffering group still revel in understatement.
This is especially the case on current album The Take Off And Landing Of Everything, where thankfully they refuse to try striking anthemic gold once more in the manner that made 2011's Build A Rocket Boys! a slight misstep. And despite its more minimal direction, as evinced on that pro-immigrant number, last month's follow-up has become Elbow's first number one album at the sixth time of asking.
Rather than throwing open curtains to greet the sunshine, Garvey is pondering middle-age, losing friends and breaking up, though the latter's impact is difficult to judge given the respected BBC6 broadcaster was bruised and worldly wise when his band first emerged in the early noughties. The bearded, bear-like singer pads from stage to runway and even if the latter is low enough for him to press the flesh, he remains a commanding figure. His constant cajoling for arm-waving and clapping feels like compensation for the delicacy provided by the new material that packs their set.
Elbow are still capable of grand gestures, progressing in short order from piano notes tinkling over moody electro pulses and involving percussion to Floydian arrangements both loud and intricate, aided by the judicious involvement of a seven-strong brass and strings section.
The trumpets add a plaintive salute to the elegiac 'My Sad Captains', a highlight from Take Off..., and an alarming no-wave punch to 'Fly Boy Blue'. Mid-set, the end of Garvey's ramp becomes a mini-stage for stripped-back readings of 'Great Expectations' and part of 'The Blanket...'.
Potter's upright piano used for this pair of ballads suggests bringing the feel of a saloon bar into the arena, an effect achieved elsewhere through Garvey's easy familiarity and rapport with his audience. “We lost a friend last week,” he says by way of introduction and dedication to 'The Night Will Always Win', beginning a ramble that ends sweetly with a toast to absent friends. Later, the frontman instigates an astonishing piece of audience participation he terms a reverse Mexican wave.
Thus, Elbow's two-hour set swings from the melancholy trip-hop influences of 'Charge' to the crunching grunge of 'Grounds For Divorce' (with a cameo from Garvey on his own drum kit), via the gliding strings of 'The Birds'. So many exquisite details require constant concentration and the fans get their due reward. Garvey essentially turns over 'One Day Like This' to them and the massed ranks happily take charge.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'