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- The O2 Arena, London »
"From the moment they sloped on stage, glasses hoisted towards the 20,000-strong audience, as if saluting regulars at their local pub, the Manchester band projected their trademark values of decency and blokeish good humour". Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times
Elbow are now - in case you've been in isolation since 2008 in protest against the Bury five-piece being awarded that year's Mercury Prize ahead of modern jazz buskers Portico Quartet - a big deal. New album Build A Rocket Boys! entered the charts at number two a few weeks back, exceeding the top-five album that claimed said music trinket, The Seldom Seen Kid. No more sloping in at number 12 as they did with Leaders Of The Free World in 2005.
Guy Garvey no longer needs Edith Bowman to get him in the papers, and his fellow 6Music DJs talk about how 'the Guy Garvey' is now a look. Press releases are now issued when they announce tours, the FT reviews their gigs... they've become a big deal since their debut album was waylaid by three years in 1997 due to record company machinations, and there're only two places to go when you're become a big deal – into the O2 or on to a plinth outside Craven Cottage. Sadly for Fulham's own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but to the delight of those present, Elbow have chosen to tread the boards at London's roundest venue. Er... apart from perhaps the Roundhouse.
The band's first O2 gig the previous evening is, rather predictably, written up as the victory lap of unlikely heroes, the local lads done good, the pearls glittering in amongst an ocean of 30 Seconds To Mars-shaped shite and other such patronising piss-dribble. Well, apart from that last one, that's probably spot on. Call DiS a curmudgeonly malcontent (and this particular DiSer is very much a curmudgeonly malcontent) but while Elbow deserved the plaudits they received for having earned their success in a satisfactorily old school way (four albums until you hit paydirt? What Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong would have given for that kind of action), it's over three years since The Seldom Seen Kid landed. To continue to laud a group of seasoned, obviously talented musicians for sticking at it seems tantamount to congratulating Lionel Messi for being short.
However, mainstream media is far from being solely responsible for the sentiment surrounding Elbow. Over the course of this evening, Garvey schools us in the difference between the Northern and Southern pronunciations of 'love' before leading a clap along through the warm embrace of 'With Love'. He asks for a round of applause for bassist Pete Turner's new daughter before a spot-lit 'The Night Will Always Win'. The band stop for cocktail hour at the end of the O2's runway and toast the crowd before launching into 'Weather To Fly' (Key lyric: "Are we having the time of our lives?"), which is about Elbow having been together as a band for 20 years. You get the picture.
By now you may be asking whether DiS's barracking of this bonhomie means our soul is going the way of Max Clifford's. However, with the crowd lapping up Garvey's quips and charisma, it's hard not to feel that Elbow aren't selling themselves short by peddling this almost off-the-shelf 'moment' and their near refusal to reference their existence pre-The Seldom Seen Kid. This is the band that wrote 'New Born' and 'Fallen Angel' - packing their set with slowies and slush to get the throats of the CD-buying masses welling up seems well beneath them.
Elbow prove this themselves when they do venture out of the cuddly zone and mess with the momentum – 'Neat Little Rows', lumpen and uninspiring on record, is beaten into a brutal stomp here, while the by now well-worn 'Grounds For Divorce' is crunchy, vital and proof that Elbow's impact is infinitely multiplied when Garvey's unique voice is used as part of the band rather than the band used as a vehicle for it.
We'll give them the closing love-in of 'One Day Like This' tonight though. With seemingly all present swaying and shouting along to the umpteenth refrain of "So throw those curtains wide!...", you'd have to be Mohamed Al Fayed not to be won over by the weight of public opinion behind its unassuming epicness.
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