Elbow at Koko? A match made in nursery-rhyme heaven if ever therewas one! And as Camden’s best rock venue slowly filled, theanticipation grew for this come-back gig to promote their new album.Actually, let me just read that last line again.
Is it the case now that bands only do anything when they havesomething to promote? And why has it taken so long for them to come upwith anything new? Whatever happened to the “keep playing or die”philosophy? Whatever happened to The Strokes, for thatmatter?
Well, wherever Elbow have been, they’ve certainly filled out. Now,I take the view that, in rock’n'roll, any criticism of thepresentation is good coin, and when someone mentions how nice a womanlooks in pop, that it is not meant to imply that she does not haveother qualities. “You wouldn’t talk about her pretty blonde face ifshe was a man”. Too right, I wouldn’t.
And I might even hedge my betsabout saying anything if she was fat. But Elbow, as a whole, are aportly group. Singer Gus Garvey admits this himself when he shufflesback on stage to the crowd’s rendition of the theme from The LittlestHobo (a condition set by Garvey for the encore) and smirks at thesight of a thousand fans singing the tune to “five chubby lads fromManchester”. And has anyone spotted what Elbow spells backward?
But what, you rightly ask, of the music? Well, the vocals couldhave done with being turned up as the band drowned out Garvey’s gruffcroon, particularly on the intense Switching Off, but all thecrowd-pleasing moments from the first two albums were there, playedwith gusto. Pleasingly, the stand-out moments came from the newmaterial, in particular Great Expectations – which was a bit toolaidback and quiet for the assembled jabberers who were, sadly, notasleep at the back – and an absolutely storming Leaders of the FreeWorld. Early indications are that this new album will meet theexpectations of the loyal cast of thousands assembled heretonight.
But let me return to the start and wonder again what benefithibernating can have for a band, who only then wheel themselves backout when there’s PR to be done? Well, in Elbow’s case, it does seemthat it is not only the waistlines that have grown. A passionateperformance, a familiar ease with the audience and a set of new tunesthat could rekindle the affections of the masses for their torch songsappear to be the result of withdrawing to the kitchen. And if music bethe food of love, dining with Elbow is clearly a smart choice.