Live at Leeds Metropolitan University on Tuesday, 22nd November 2005
I have never seen Guy Garvey smile as much as he smiled tonight, this is a man more likely to be spotted looking rejected and sullen in some seedy backroom bar with a fag, a pint of ale and his trusty notebook detailing the minutiae of his every failing in the romance department.
But who's this?
Tonight he appeared more like a wounded General on his battlefield called love, flanked by his worthy lieutenants surveying their loyal troops and calling them to arms in the final great chukka over the edge. Bloody hell!
Elbow may always appear the perennial underdog to what's currently fashionable and cool in music or aside the global whoring of other such commercial acts. I'm pretty sure that they too would like a bite of the apple but not at the expense of their 'art'. Well sod art, this is music!
Guy Garvey is tonight wielding a walking stick possibly following an altercation with a love rival? Anyway the stick makes a good stage prop for repeatedly prodding his point across to a Leeds crowd looking to get into a verbal scrap with the Lancashire wordsmith. And makes him look a little like a demented Old fella about to get busy at ya with a full commode... ahem. Nice.
Most of the tunes on display tonight were showcasing the new 'Leaders Of the Free World' album, and with a sound as dexterous and dense as theirs the songs really work under live conditions. Opening with 'Station Approach' a hymn to Manchester's bustling Piccadilly area, the band feel loose and confident. Theirs is a sound that appears to build slowly but gives way to almost church like sonics with the band barely breaking sweat and Guy's voice, controlled and resonant throughout, leads the charge.
Three songs stand out for me, Newborn, Grace Under Pressure and Mexican Standoff. All different songs, all tackling issues in a way so eloquent that as a pseudo lyricist I have to sigh and wish I'd paid more attention in English (and generally) at school. Bugger!
The crowd tonight love it, they know the words, and they seem to understand that bands like this don't just appear but have worked and worked their arses off for a good few years and deserve their loyalty and the band pay it back by continuing to document a difficult journey encapsulated in songs which take your breath away.
They say that love and hate are common bedfellows; with this in mind it is easy to see why Guy Garvey and band have not transgressed further up the commercial ladder. They write about what's real, not what's hypothetically real or could happen but what has, loving each other and hating yourself.
So very English then, but the only reserve I guess is found in the bottle sat on Guys table in his gas lit, backroom mind.
If you haven't heard any Elbow, try some you may just like it. Shit name...bloody great band!