Good after evening. Welcome to… My favourite band.
Well. One of a few. It kind of rotates depending on my mood, what genre I’m feeling at a particular point in time, or if a new album has just come out. I think a month or so back Elbow, brought out their new album Little Fictions and naturally I had to buy the deluxe set complete with CD, vinyl, artwork, lyric book and a tiny matchbox which, I’m sure, has some lyrical relevance, but can’t actually remember right this second.
Rewind a few months, I think it was the end of 2016, they announced their new album tour and a few clicks later I had tickets for March 5th at the Hammersmith Apollo. Get in!
Now to find someone to go with.
The boyfriend, of course. Even though he’s a metal head. But as it happens, he also likes soppy country songs and Avril Lavigne and that’s open minded enough for me.
So I’m sorted with my tickets and fancy new album to get back into my Elbow loop. You know when you love an artist too hard and you end up having to take a break from their stuff for a while? Here is the end of that while.
My album arrives in purple and golden glory and all the little tidbits lay around me as I joyfully explore my new toys and startup my laptop to fill my ears with new sounds.
I didn’t really like it.
This happens to me a lot. As I’m sure it does for other people as well. You get so wound up in a band and their sound that when they bring out something that’s different from what you’re used to hearing from them you’re not entirely sure what to make of it.
To be fair to them, this isn’t like that time when Panic! At The Disco went from techno/burlesque/emo/alternative rock to straight up Beatles. That was rather jarring and fans nearly marched in the streets, until they realised that they were marching to the new tunes and liked them anyway. Granted there will always be the hardcores, who hate anything beyond that first album because that was a true masterpiece of theatrical rock.
As always, I digress.
Elbow’s new album wasn’t that, by any stretch of the imagination, but I found that a lot of the tracks were, what I call, ‘radio friendly’. The kind of track that has a recognisable sound, and not too abstracted from the general mainstream sound that could reach a wider audience. What I love so much about Elbow’s natural sound is that there are those few tracks that a lot of people could get into, in passing, and then the rest of the album is a journey in melodic grooves that you don’t know, you don’t hear, you don’t imagine.
The best album for that, though not my favourite album, is their first; Asleep In The Back. Almost the whole album is just a world of its absolute own. It’s shaded and sparse. Its the hushed hum of restaurant conversations in a dim blue light. Vague whimsy spun through its unconventional chord structure. Structure that isn’t necessarily by the book. Or any book, for that matter.
Elbow’s music, for me, is gentle and unexpected. And in a world that revolves around similar sounds, the same four chords, empty lyrics about vapid love affairs, and the visuals of an artist being more important than their sound, Elbow’s unorthodox approach brings me much needed respite from the general frivolity of chart music (I’m sure Elbow are on the charts somewhere but you understand my meaning, I’m sure).
So, after that entire paragraph of though, I felt it best to leave the album for a bit until the concert. 9 times out of 10 I find that I warm up to music I originally disliked. I can never rely on the first listen to tell me whether or not I like a song. I either have to listen a few more times, or listen to it in context of the album; listen to it, in contrast to previous albums, or just not listen to it at all, until it pops up on my shuffle or I get an earworm for it.
Back To The Concert
So, I left Little Fictions to one side, and continued listening to my usual playlist until last Sunday. No, this is not a fresh review but I was too happy, having bought a new Elbow hat, and also had a really bad cough, to have any care of much else. This is the second time that I’ve seen Elbow live. The first was at the O2, in Greenwich, so I was a little confused (and disappointed) in their downgrade to the Apollo, which has a fraction of the O2’s capacity.
Nevertheless, I was just happy to go, despite coughing my life away all day.
Elbow is 100% my favourite band to see live. Their sound guy is perfection. Never in my life am I more impressed by the ability of a sound manager to give the vocals full clearance of the rest of the instruments. I could hear every word Guy Garvey sung, clear as the finest cut quartz chandelier, it was a dream. As chill as Elbow’s sound is, by comparison to Panic! or Fall Out Boy, there is still an element of rock in there, it still gets kind of heavy and pretty loud, but still I heard every lyric.
As such, I applaud their sound manager. The only thing that really disappointed me was their lack of orchestral instruments. Some of their songs require the use of brass for solos and the like which they had at the O2, but I suppose the size of the stage had its limitations. The trumpet duet for My Sad Captains was replaced with a violin duet instead. Beautifully played but not as effective as the original clear pitch of the trumpet. And to be honest, I was banking on them having their tiny 5 piece orchestra like last time so that my boyfriend might endeavour to enjoy his night a little more, but I don’t think it really took away from his experience.
All in all, it was an amazing night. And to round off my review, I enjoyed the show so much that when Guy Garvey told the band to stop playing in One Day Like This, so that the audience could be heard singing the chorus, and when he told us to split into the harmony, you’ve never heard someone with a cough sing louder than I did that night. Probably deafened my poor boyfriend for it.
I look forward to the next.