Tuesday 27 November 2012

"You always look tired" she said....

Elbow @ Nottingham Arena, 26th November 2012

According to my own record of such things, the last proper gig that I went to was on the 1st of February of this year.  As this is a fallow Glastonbury year, to boot, this means that my gig attendance over the last few months has been shockingly poor.  I've been to a lot of gigs over the last few years, sometimes several in the same week.  Some have been good.  Some have not been good.  Generally speaking, all of them have been worth going to.  I've said it before: even a bad gig is sometimes better than another aimless night in front of the telly.   Well, for whatever reason, I seem to have fallen out of the habit.

No matter, yesterday I got back into the saddle and accompanied Sarah to see Elbow at the Arena.  Apparently it's their last tour for a while before they disappear for a year or so to finish off their next album, and this is their way of thanking their fans.... and well, it's Elbow, isn't it?  You don't really need an excuse to see them, do you?

I don't like arena gigs, in the main.  They lack soul; they're big, echoing barns with poor sound, crap beer, no atmosphere and the kind of gig-goer who only comes out once or twice a year and doesn't really GET what attending a concert is all about....

....well, we've already established that I now fit into that category, so perhaps I'd better quietly file the stereotypes away, eh?

Well, this gig WAS full of lots of older couples, it's true, no doubt many drawn in by Elbow's suddenly much higher profile and their national treasure status that seemed to be cemented when they played "One Day Like This" at the Olympics and wrote the BBC's theme tune for their coverage.  Now, I may have loved the band since the first time I heard "Red" in 2001, and I might have seen the band performing many times in the past - and they seemed to always be playing Rock City in the week before the release of their latest new album - but frankly what right does that give me to be sneery about people who may have discovered them through their Mercury Prize winning album, "The Seldom Seen Kid"?  If I was happy to see a band that I loved find well-deserved success, then it would be churlish to resent their new fans, wouldn't it?  Besides, Elbow are such a warm-hearted band and well, so damn good, that actually I find it a little difficult to believe that anyone wouldn't like them, to be honest.  The world is surely all the better for being a place where Elbow are a success.

That said, this gig was nearly ruined for me: we seemed to be standing next to a clutch of overly-haired and saggily-trousered students who spent the whole gig drinking beer and loudly talking to each other during songs.  It wasn't just the older songs either: I think the only song that really shut them up was "Grounds for Divorce", and that might just have been because of the sheer power of that filthy great big riff.  For these kids, the band were merely a backdrop to their night out, and I almost let them sour my own experience.  Luckily, the excellence of Elbow rescued me.  Guy Garvey was his usual warm, charming self, constantly checking on our wellbeing and joking with us about Bryan Adams and Kevin Costner being two of the things he knew about Nottingham, but the band were on blistering form, with their now customary strings and brass accompaniment.

Early into their set, as the band played "The Leaders of the Free World", one of my favourite of their songs and the title-track of my favourite of their albums, I jokingly said to Sarah that I could happily leave now.... I'm so glad that I didn't, as the band went on to play two of my favourite songs in the world, by any band, neither of which they play all that often: "Puncture Repair" and especially "Fugitive Motel".  I don't think I've ever heard them play the latter live before, and it was magnificent, a really beautiful moment.  No twat at a gig was going to ruin this for me.  After that, what did I care that some people thought "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver" was an excuse to go to the bar?  That's their loss.  Yeah, so the strange, leery old drunk guy just in front of us was a bit weird, but when a band are this good, why worry?  They've even picked up a pretty good light show from somewhere too.  They're all over this Arena tour thing now.  They're old hands.

I listened to "Build A Rocket Boys!" in the car the other day, having not listened to it properly for a few months.  To be honest, it rather confirmed my opinion that, although it contains one or two really outstanding songs, it's a slightly underwhelming album and not as good as the two that immediately preceded it.  That's not to say it's a bad album, by any means, just that - for me - it's a dip in the band's incredibly high standards.  They play a fair bit of it tonight, of course.... "High Ideals", "The Birds", "Lippy Kids"... but it's the other stuff that really works for me: as well as the songs already mentioned, we had "Grounds for Divorce", "Grace Under Pressure", "The Bones of You", "Mirrorball", a lovely "Weather to Fly", complete with an unlikely falsetto contribution from a random chap in the crowd called Jack.  New song "Charge" sounds very promising, but of course it's "One Day Like This" that closes the show with a bang and an enormous crowd singalong that Garvey duly milks for all it's worth.

As we sang the refrain again and again, complete with harmonies, I turned into the crowd and saw, in the seats, a little lad of about 8 years old.  He was singing his little heart out next to an elderly couple doing exactly the same thing.  I think Guy Garvey would like that, don't you?  Even the student standing in front of us seemed to approve: as the houselights came up, he turned to his mate and said, "That was even better than Oasis".

Surely no higher compliment?  We'll miss them until they're back.

VERDICT: 8 / 10
High Ideals
The Bones of You
Leaders of the Free World
The Night Will Always Win
Weather to Fly
Fugitive Motel
Grounds for Divorce
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Puncture Repair
Lippy Kids
Grace Under Pressure
Open Arms
The Birds
One Day Like This


  1. Amusingly, this is what I said when I saw Elbow at Rock CIty in April 2008, just before "The Seldom Seen Kid" came out (or just after, I forget...)


    "Elbow @ Nottingham Rock City, 14th April 2008

    When I last saw Elbow, back in February 2006, I had this to say about them:

    "They remind me a little of a non-stadium friendly Coldplay - with a better and more inventive lyricist. They're very downbeat and slightly melancholy, but they have a wonderful knack with a tune, and given the right moment, can be wonderfully uplifting. They deserve to be massive, but I would be very surprised if that ever really happens".

    Their media profile seems to be a bit higher these days, but somehow they remain a band that it's difficult to see ever really becoming as big as they deserve. Perhaps they're too self-effacing, or perhaps it's simply because Guy Garvey isn't really very likely to marry a Hollywood A-lister any time soon"


  2. I'm not going to lie, I am a little jealous of you right now. I told the girls that you got to go to this gig. They gave me puzzled looks. *sigh*

    I suppose I'm going to have to keep living vicariously through all of your gigs, huh?

  3. I went to see them in Manchester on Saturday. It was the most civilised gig experience of my life. We had standing tickets so basically walked to where the gangway stage bit finished in the middle of the arena(no shoving or pretending to have fake friends at the front required). We had space, everyone was polite, no glasses of piss were thrown. I love his chit chat and I love the fact that he totally engages with his audience (actually looks into their eyes). All Elbow gigs that I have been to have been like this and my theory is that Guy Garvey just makes you want to be a better person. Elbow can do no wrong in my eyes and yes I was there from the beginning - we decorated my eldest son's nursery 11 years ago to the strains of "Newborn"