Elbow - Manchester MEN Arena

The boys are back in town.

At Elbow’s Leeds Academy show last year I told my friends that I would never ever see them perform at the MEN. The idea was anathema to me. No way, never, neit!

So there I was at the very very front of the MEN area, eating my words. Fans are a jealous and protective lot. We don’t like sharing. Oh sure, we may lament the ignorance of the rest of the world for not appreciating the genius of our favourite band, but secretly, guiltily, we are glad. No one wants to see their band go from playing 1,500 capacity venues to performing at the giant aeroplane hangar that is the MEN Arena.

Unless, of course, that band is Elbow. Only they could make their biggest ever headlining gig feel like an intimate show at the Apollo.

The band commenced proceedings with a trilogy from their multi-award winning album The Seldom Seen Kid, the (unrequited) love song ‘Starlings’ with trumpets blaring and fireworks lighting up the arena, followed by ‘The Bones Of You’ and the (very requited) love song ‘Mirrorball’. In between numbers the ever charming Guy Garvey chatted to the audience like we were all old friends.

What ensued was a generous helping of old and new songs, few surprises and lots of laughs. The standout tracks from 2005’s Leaders of the Free World, such as the stomping ‘Mexican Standoff’, ‘Forget Myself’ plus the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘The Stops’ (the latter helped along by the newly christened “Elbow Choir”, 2700 fans adorned in white T-Shirts specially for the occasion) were performed alongside a big chunk of TSSK including 'The Fix' with special guest Richard Hawley, ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and ‘The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver’, a song that well and truly shows off Guy Garvey’s magnificent vocal range. In between the mix were songs from the first album, the 2001 Mercury Prize nominated Asleep In The Back; ‘Newborn’, ‘Scattered Black and Whites’ and the rarely, if ever, performed ‘Bitten By The Tailfly’.

With the crowd singing a rousing, if out of sync, rendition of The Beatles' ‘All You Need Is Love’ (as instructed by Garvey) the band came back on to perform a four song strong encore beginning with ‘Station Approach’, their ode to their beloved Manchester. The show ended with the “feel good hit of the summer” the omnipresent ‘One Day Like This’ with the audience singing heartily along. An exuberant and final farewell from a band, to a band, that came through to the finish despite all the odds.

Set list:

Bones of You
Leaders of the Free World
The Stops
The Fix (with Mr Hawley)
Mexican Standoff
Bitten by the Tailfly
Grounds for Divorce
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Scattered Black and White
Forget Myself
Station Approach
Some Riot
Weather To Fly
One Day Like This

Images by Mike Gray and Olivia Schaff

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