Elbow - Newport Centre
It has been a singular year for the music industry. Take Elbow, an unpretentious band who have been around longer than Hovis bread and have blithely ploughed a lone furrow, entertaining a resolute bunch of hardy, loyal fans who have stuck by them through thick and thin (sliced) times. Yet now, suddenly, the world has gone Elbow mad, I mean Hel-lo, you don’t like Elbow? What is wrong with you? I mean Elbow! C’mon!! Elboooooow…
Well, I’ve listened to the album and, yeah, it is as accomplished as you’d expect from a band that has been playing for quite some time but I just don’t get how it has turned them into household names in the UK. It seems to largely hinge on the fact that they are ‘good blokes’ – well so is my postman but he’s not playing to sold out arenas. Not that I begrudge them their success, there’s a great deal to admire and the more time I devote to the album the more appreciative and attuned I become to its subtle, personal, intimate charms. The prospect of seeing it performed live, however, filled me with a dread beyond that which I normally experience when heading towards Newport. Was this music really conceived with the prospect of it being performed in a council leisure centre?
The answer, unequivocally, is absolutely not, but it appears that Elbow are great advocates of allowing the music to speak for itself and seeing how it fares, whatever the surroundings or circumstances. It is certainly hard to credit that this bunch of crumpled, caustic geezers who inhabit the stage could have made such fragile and personal records; hard, that is, until they start performing them, literally by blowing their own trumpets.
Initial fears are unfounded, I neither lapse into a coma nor run for the nearest exit. It is a rare talent indeed that can conspire to make every person in this hall feel that they are enjoying their own personal show and, ok I was wrong, the fact that Garvey and his band are avuncular blokes actually does matter. They come as keepers of a flame, seeming to be almost bemused by the talents that they harbour, and in-between the matey banter they hold us spellbound with songs of elegiac beauty . Not that is it a show wholly dominated by pin-drop delicacy, hell you could have rustled as many Fox’s Glacier Fruit wrappers as you wanted and no-one would have heard you; not a single disapproving ‘tut’ would have come your way – so raucous and rock n roll were elements of tonight’s show. Surprises all around then.
Highlights of the show are a stentorian rendition of the crowd-pleasing Grounds for Divorce and the lyrical goldmine of Starlings, while the gentle rendition of Newborn provides the perfect antidote to the valedictorian splendour of the epic One Day Like This, a song which provides a fitting end to the show and leaves us all with some hope that every dog really will have its day. Overall, I’m still not entirely convinced that this really was justifiably the year of Elbow but, sometimes it is just good to see a genuine, no frills band get some proper recognition. Now, when exactly are the postman of the year awards?