elbow + Jimi Goodwin @ LG Arena, Birmingham, UK – 5 April 2014

Second gig of the weekend and to music from England: we’re off to the LG Arena to a band with their own truly unique style. From kids that may be seldom seen – maybe they’ll be off building rockets – who knows? Just think of how you handle everything, take off and land – raise your beer glasses and chill-out to the beautiful and unique tones of elbow.

elbow_kenharrisonThe guys in elbow were together long before they formed elbow in ’97. Guy Garvey, Mark Potter, Craig Potter, Richard Jupp, Pete Turner have done things their own way – commercial success has followed them: all 6 of their studio albums have made the top 40, ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ winning the Mercury Music Prize. 2011’s ‘Build a Rocket Boys!’ made 2 in the album charts, in 2012 we couldn’t get away from them – ‘One Day Like This’ was the BBC theme for the  London 2012 Olympics and their newbie ‘The Take Off and Handling of Everything’ has made Number 1. New single ‘New York Morning’ is out now.

Influences permeate their music, early Genesis, and the stuff we all grew up with and were inspired by – the legendary (if undervalued in their heyday) Talk Talk and prog-rock alternates Radiohead. elbow’s music permeates our lives – I suggest there’s not a day goes by when a soundtrack to a TV program doesn’t contact an interlude of elbow.

To mark their return with a new album – why not do a release in the way that you love to? The pre-release of the album was available to hear across the UK in a brewery chain of pubs. Sit down. Listen and drink a pint of Marston’s Charge (named after a track on the new album) – a golden pale ale that elbow created – in Garvey’s words - “a perfect accompaniment to the album.”

This Birmingham gig is the first date of their 7 date UK tour, before a trip to the States and returning for Festival season – which includes T in the Park and V’and the recently announced Glastonbury.

Sooo – supports tonight comes from Doves member (Doves on hiatus, they haven’t split, they’re just doing their own things) and Garvey friend, Jimi Goodwin – who’s taking his own personal journey by going solo.  He’s just released his solo album ‘Odludek’ – a deeply personal effort. The title means loner or pilgrim in Polish and is where he’s at at the moment. Goodwin can’t wait: “I feel like I’ve been in hibernation, and now I’m emerging out in to the sunlight again, and it feels great.” As he takes to the stage – one or two of tonight’s punters shout “Com’on Jimi…” “How are we Birmingham?” – he explains he’s nervous and will be waffling. Goodwin’s new stuff is indie rising sounds, with a positive vibe that roll on and on. ‘Live Like A River’ pumps along full of indieness. The increasing crowd are enjoying his set. “Are you all well? Are you psyched up for elbow? It’s going to be magical…it’s gonna be beautiful…” as he leads us into ‘Whiskey’ an uplifting track, featuring acoustic guitars and harmonicas.  ‘The Panic Room’ was written with buddy Garvey – Goodwin’s set goes down well. Check his album out – well worth a listen.

So after an interlude we wait – The Cure and PJ Harvey (with her little fishes swimming in the river) plays out, and dry ice permeates the stage as the LG Arena fills to capacity.

Lights go down and here they come. Garvey waves to the audience – the set includes a ramp that goes into the middle of the crowd – dropping to floor level and then stepping up to a platform. Garvey is there waving to the crowd as the synth chug starts up with “I am electric. With a bottle in me….” beautifully delivered … “Hey!” - it’s new track “Charge.’ elbow are here tonight with a simple stage set; the band set up as if they were in a rehearsal studio, just like they’re just jamming, huddled closely with strings and brass musicians in support. And hey, they’ve kinda invited 15,000 friends along.

“Good evening Birmingham – looking beautiful… let’s see your hands everyone..” Garvey is engaging – just a ‘normal’ everyday bloke. We clap, clap, clap: from ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ – it’s the beautifully delivered ‘The Bones of You.’

“Some real talent on that side of the stage…” Garvey indicates to the ladies of the strings and brass section… “This is a new song about international air travel, my love of smoking, drinking and the back of women’s necks…..” as you do: ‘Fly Boy Blue.’

There are no superfluous additions to elbow – they’ve just playing, beautifully. Floating HD screens as a backdrop – video cameras showing the band as they play – and you are mesmerized by the men dressed in black. The arena roof has a line of circular lights – we wonder if they are usually there?  Inspired by being powerless to help someone after heartbreak, new track ‘Real Life (Angel)’ is once again beautifully delivered, floating round the stadia before Garvey is in the middle again – with the haunting and sublime and delectably beautiful ‘The Night Will Always Win’ – hairs prickle on 15,000 peoples’ arms.

“It was good wasn’t it?” as Garvey acknowledges the crowds reaction. He’s gossiping with the audience – like we’re a bunch of mates he’s chatting with in the pub. And to a tale about moisturizer (!)  There’s no airs or graces. elbow just are. As we’re taken on their journey into new single ‘New York Morning.’

“Cheers.” as we sway our arms from side to side; as atmosphere takes over the entire arena and a beautiful rising rendition of ‘The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver.’ Garvey is chatting again – he’d be a great comedian in his own right. elbow have been having children. Well a couple of them have, and even though it’s the first night of the tour – they’re already being missed – we’re invited to say hi to Ted Turner and Nancy Potter – the crowd shout out the names – Garvey suggests they should be turned into ringtones on their father’s phones….

So in the centre on the ramp, there’s a piano and Turner, Potter and Garvey are playing a song about a secret wedding – where even the bride didn’t know it had taken place ‘Great Expectations’; followed by ‘The Blanket of Night’ – another beautiful track.

“Everyone okay? I feel like we’re on a first date Birmingham?” Garvey enquires as to whether there is indeed, anyone here on a first date…”Ey – good one. Take her to an elbow gig – they’re soft bastards…”

And as the guitar gently chimes in unison with keyboards – a huge mirrorball drops from the top of the main set, to accompany the track of the same name – Garvey encourages us all to raise our arms and wiggle our fingers at the bouncing light. Arms are swaying from side to side. “Look at you, you beautiful creatures.” “Yeah I know”, he encourages us to respond. “And who said not so bad yourself?”

And  now – as we clap – elbow finally rock out, elbow style – with the immense ‘The Birds’;  the guitar crunch heavier live than on the album – it powers round the stadia – all 8 minutes plus of it. Awesome. And then another, jangly guitar, and then quietly  “Mondays is for drinking to the seldom seen kid…” before we get the power grind and “I’ve been working on a cocktail called “Grounds For Divorce”, whoa…” as we “whoa” - we’re rocking and dancing – Garvey takes to drums to power the track out. Our jaws are on the floor.

“Last song….” Huge boo from the crowd. “Very last song… the very last….” as Garvey starts to quip: “….we’re thinking of f***in’ off the tour… this is the last song we’re ever gonna  play…” (Consults with band). “Nah… it’s definitely our last song…” He considers us all old friends – encouraging those first-daters to have a snog. “Bloody ‘ell it works!” as we wave our arms from side to side once again – and back to beautiful and sublime elbow with ‘My Sad Captains.’

And so to the break for encore (we hope) – crowd are going crazy – desperate for the band to return – the cameras are turned on the audience – people make daft faces and are broadcast for all to see.

Well of curse they didn’t mean it – they’re back  – our arms are once swaying from side to side “…like long grass in a Hawaiian breeze…” as we’re presented with the beautiful ‘Starlings.’

“Birmingham – is this love?” Big cheer. “Thanks everyone – talk about backing a house that’s good for glue – did anyone else win?” – in reference to the Grand National. Elbow’s manager did – but everyone refused to pay him!  Next track and acknowledgement to support Jimi Goodwin – and a dedication to him – cos the next track is kinda about him ‘Lippy Kids.’ Garvey whistles and 15,000 people whistle back. “…build a rocket boys….” in unison we sing. Really quite beautiful.

“Cheers Birmingham – what an extraordinary evening…” (all 15,000 of us are in agreement0. “You are absolutely f***ing lovely Birmingham – you joyous bunch….” “One last order of business…..Glasgow are pretty good at this…” (to which we all boo – after encouragement to get competitive.) “We are elbow from Manchester – goodnight…”

Music affects us in so many ways. And the music we love takes us to a point where we remember, where we feel, smell, touch a memory.And as the violins start up – the hair on our skins reacts – and stands on edge, emotional ties are made – civic pride appears from nowhere – us usually cynical bunch are as one…. “One Day Like This…” and we sing and we smile – it’s delivered with immaculate power. And those lights that live the arena – suddenly drop in unison – they’re inflatable lighted balls – they bounce round the crowd. And we end this song we’re singing louder and louder… “Throw those curtains wide One day like this a year would see me right ……Throw those curtains wide One day like this a year would see me right…..” and even when it ends and the band sign off and we’re cheering – Garvey encourages us to sing the chorus again as they leave stage. And all 15,000 of us do.

I see lots of bands. I see good bands. I see great bands. And very rarely, you see something beyond, even better – head and shoulder above great. These self effacing bunch of guys you would merrily hang out and take a beer with in your local pub, tonight,  were up there with the legends. Beautiful and sublime – funny – yet all encompassing.  One of those gigs you will remember for years. I’m going leave you singing…over and over agin.. with a big broad grin on your face, and that pride of being part of something bigger:

“Throw those curtains wide

One day like this a year would see me right……

Throw those curtains wide

One day like this a year would see me right….”


Intro: Slow Moving Water
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue
Real Life (Angel)
The Night Will Always Win
New York Morning
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Great Expectations
The Blanket of Night
The Birds
Grounds for Divorce
My Sad Captains

Lippy Kids
One Day Like This


The Seldom Seen Kid [2010]
Build a Rocket Boys! [2011]
Take Off and Landing of Everything [2014]


Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.