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- Cavern, Southington »
Elbow In The Guts
So, how can we help you this evening? Aha, you're looking for the next big thing? Well, you've a fair chance that Elbow are what you are looking for there. Then you probably already knew that, with the exposure they're currently receiving in the press, the sessions for Radio 1, and that big hit single which made no. 36 with a bullet a couple of weeks back. Or is it soul-stirring music you're after? Once again, you stand a fair chance with Elbow, truly craftsmen of a song, as you would probably tell me after hearing a tune or two. So you're convinced? Good, come join the throng of like-minded searchers.
The Cavern tonight is full of curiosity. So much has been heard, a snatch of one track, a soundbite on an advertisement. More than a little hype too.
Not that it's confined to Elbow. Tonight's support, The Mull Historical Society are currently busy gathering themselves credibility around the fringes of the melodic resurgence embodied by the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, Coldplay and Elbow. They play a familiar brand of breezy guitar music, the three piece live band supplemented by miraculous effects and backing vocals coming through the ether. Very much on the upside of the coin, even songs with downbeat themes like "I Tried" manage to pump a poppy pulse, whilst their theme song "Westernised" would probably have got the audience jigging merrily had the evening not been so obviously about to take a weightier turn.
When Elbow grace us with their presence, it's an unassuming entry, lent weight by the fact that any band with six people plus instruments on stage at the Cavern totally packs the little area in front of the wall we've all been staring at for about half an hour, known as the stage. Despite 10 years doing the rounds, they are still unwilling to share more than a few gruff Mancunian welcome grunts and a totally detached conversation with their road crew. Then the opening number starts and all of that ceases to matter.
"Any Day Now" begins to melt out of the speakers, Elbow's striking vocal harmonies as fragile as on record, but far from breaking. The loping rhythm is downbeat, yet infectious. Another track originating from their final E.P. as an indie band, "George Lassoes The Moon", is followed by "Powder Blue" from their first. Despite the musical precision with which the slightly plodding recorded forms of these songs are reproduced on stage, tonight singer Guy Garvey gives them real soul, and they gain an extra dimension. A polished and personal version of the single "Red" rounds off an opening quartet of amazing depth and feeling to squeals of delight all around.
"Bitten By The Tailfly" is the closest Elbow get to rock, however it is obviously not the flint required to ignite the volatile atmosphere amongst the audience tonight. Crashing guitars and ropey-looking film projectors give their all, to elicit only reserved enthusiasm from the audience. The subtler, gentler, more emotional sparks generated by "Coming Second" and "Don't Mix Your Drinks" are more successful in starting a smouldering down below, wafted to flames by the conventional set closer "Newborn". From the unforgettable opening line - "I'll be the corpse in your bathtub"- the song builds and swings, aching yet soothing, a fine point to end a set. However, as Guy explains, having finally warmed to the audience, because of the unique awkwardness of getting into and out of The Cavern, there will be no encores tonight. Instead they tack an extended version of the easy shuffle of "Scattered Black and Whites" onto the end, almost apologetically, deeming that strobes would be enough to elevate their exit.
So, the evening draws to a close in a bit of an anticlimax. Despite our late hour of departure, they played only a short set, 9 songs in total. However, what more could we have wanted? They played all their best tunes, with as much heart as they could muster, and put on a show of films and lights unlike much else seen at The Cavern. They have entertained us, and their music has stirred deep feelings within us for a short while. However a night that started with curiosity seems destined to end with a question also.
That being: If it's taken them 10 years to produce this set, what more do they have to offer?
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