Back You are here: Home Reviews Elbow (UK) -Live @ The Palace 27/07/2011 Review

Elbow (UK) -Live @ The Palace 27/07/2011 Review

It’s been two years since Manchester lads Elbow were last on our shores, touring off the back of their 2008 Mercury Music Prize winning album, The Seldom Seen Kid. This year has seen the band release their fifth studio album Build a Rocket Boys! in a career spanning 20 years and last night, they played a sold out show at The Palace in Melbourne.


It’s always testament to a fans dedication when you see eager punters lining up round the block before the doors have even opened. This demonstration of adoration is what greeted me as I walked past the Palace on my way to Chinatown for a cheeky feed. I should confess now that Elbow were not a band that I was overly familiar with…. ok I had pretty much no idea who they were until the opportunity to review them came up! However, what I’d heard of their music in the days leading up to the show had me intrigued as to how their lush, dreamy sounds would translate in the live music realm.

The opening act was Sydney born singer/songwriter Matt Corby who some may remember (or choose to forget) as the runner up on 2007’s Australian Idol. He started his set in typical singer/songwriter fashion, just him and his acoustic guitar and a sweet tune that unfortunately washed over the buzz of the building crowd. It wasn’t until his bass player and drummer joined him on stage that the full range of his vocal power was revealed.  As his songs built up and progressed, Corby’s vocals followed, building to a crescendo of powerfully controlled laments that seemed to extend beyond his twenty years. Age aside, Corby’s on stage confidence commanded the audience’s attention, especially during his smouldering bluesy jams and you could have almost been convinced that the crowd were there for him.

Once Corby exited the stage, anticipation for the main act started to build and it wasn’t too long before the lights dimmed and two violinists were illuminated in the blue floodlights.  The lads received an affectionate greeting from the crowd and charismatic front man Guy Garvey took a moment to take in the surrounds before launching into The Birds, the opening track off Build a Rocket Boys! It was evident from the beginning that Elbow have spent many years honing and perfecting their live sound as band members Mark Potter on guitar, Pete Turner on bass, Richard Jupp on drums and Mark’s brother Craig Potter on keys kept the music tight and precise. The addition of strings on stage really added an extra dimension to an already lush and layered sound.

From there the lads played songs off their last two albums including The Bones of You, Mirror Ball and Neat Little Row. The crowd was only lukewarm at this stage so Garvey turned on his affable Manchester charm and humoured the crowd into singing about wonderful cheese toasties and pale ales taking a beating around the world. This did the job and Grounds for Divorce with its dirty guitar riff and sing-a-long refrain resuscitated the crowd and got heads bopping again.

The next few songs showcased the bands softer side with Garvey dedicating Great Expectations to a couple in the audience. These quieter songs were an opportunity for Garvey’s warm, husky tones to absorb into the crowd, although the experience was slightly marred by two women in front of me who talked incessantly throughout the whole show. Rude!  To lift the energy again, Garvey jumped off stage during Weather to Fly and mingled with the crowd before declaring that “being a dick is cool amongst friends” when persuading the audience to get their arms up to conduct Open Arms.  For me, this was the highlight of the night as it had all elements present; soaring vocals from the whole band, strings coming in at perfect moments and most of all, the crowd giving back some of the energy that Garvey had been ceaselessly giving all night.

The lads then left the stage but reappeared soon after armed with four trumpets and a drum to perform Starlings. The show closed with what I imagine is their most popular song One Day Like This. It seemed like this was the song that people were waiting to hear as I noticed it made the chatty women in front of me hush up for long enough to get their iphones out, link arms and sing along.  

Whilst I can’t fault Elbow’s solid performance and especially the genuine interest Guy Garvey takes in his audience, I couldn’t help but feel there was some chemistry lacking between audience and band. Part of me wonders if this could have been because some people were only there to enjoy the big hits as opposed enjoying the performance as a whole entity.

However, for those who are the fans beyond the hits, I can easily say that they would have left the show with their musical appetite for Elbow fully satiated.

Jessica Rizzi - AAA Backstage

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