We got the train to Manchester in the morning. It rained the entire time we were there, soaking us to the bone as we explored the city centre. We ate in a chain restaurant, Italian I think, before heading to the gig.
That was a few years ago and though it wasn’t the first time I’d seen Elbow live, it was the gig that sits large and raw in my memory. Bawling my eyes out as the lyrics to Scattered Black & Whites ripped my heart wide open, snapshots of childhood memories, my Grandparents, my baby sister, tears streaming down my face.
Maybe it’s because he’s roughly my age with, it seems, a similar propensity for emotion and love and heartbreak, but the lyrics of Guy Garvey have always landed hard and deep. He has the uncanny knack of grabbing a passing emotion, something you feel every day, and capturing it in simple, beautiful prose; “Coming home I feel like I, Designed these buildings I walk by”, tell me that doesn’t strike you when you go back to your hometown.
And that’s the charm of the aptly named Elbow (joints are functional, not glamourous after all) a band that are happy dealing in the humdrum of everyday life, the joy of happiness, the sadness of separation, and even when they do offer the boombastic it is still based on our shared humanities, and still cuts to the quick when needed; from the opening line of Newborn – “I’ll be the corpse in your bathtub. Uselss” – to the closing chords, folding in on top of one another to the cacophonous climax.
More recently, John Grant has started to occupy a similar place, writing with brutal honesty about the fears and insecurities that many people face day in, day out. He occupies a slightly different musical sphere but has the same self-effacing, inclusive natural warmth that Guy Garvey so easily displays on stage. He is equally as fond of the shift from gentle ballad to pulsing electronic throbbing noise, and we got the gamut of his talents in his support slot. Having seen him a couple of years ago at Glastonbury, I can confirm he is definitely one to catch when he returns.
It’d been a couple of years since I’d seen Elbow perform live and it was, as always, a wonderful delight. From the opening blare of the assembled horns of Starlings, through the quiet dark hope of Puncture Repair, to THAT final song that never fails to remind us of our place in this grand thing called humanity.
Elbow have been and have remained consistently good over the 10 years I’ve been seeing them live (which isn’t as easy as it sounds), and whilst they might not be revolutionaries, nor to the musical tastes of some, there is a lot to be said about spending an evening pouring your heart out before having it filled again with compassion and hope, before being hoisted to the rafters as one.
One day like this a year’d see me right, we sang and ohhh how true that is.