Tonight we have a treat in store for us down at the ex Crosse & Blackwell pickle factory that is the Astoria. Elbow have been around since the early ’90s just missing out on the Shoegazing era. They bided their time going through a number of mutations and several labels before finally deciding that the world is ready. Their timing has been spot on coinciding as it has with the laughably titled New Acoustic Movement or, as Alan McGee would have it, ‘bedwetters’ music’. All this has already led to Mercury nomination and a sell out crowd tonight.
Just as Shoegazing wasn’t about visuals but pure sound, the current crop seems to be about having haunting melodies and a lead singer that can really sing! Since when has having an excellent vocal range been a pre-requisite of a lead singer? Surely if that is your bag you would listen to Pavarotti or Charlotte Church?
A near feature length film heralds Elbow’s assent to the stage and on comes Guy Garvey and his ‘merry’ band with Any Day Now. Throughout the set Garvey’s voice alternates between husky whisper and celestial reverberation. Tangible claustrophobia clouds the air, not assisted by the hugely appreciative but nonetheless near motionless crowd who pack tighter and tighter together in a craning mass.
During a faultless delivery of the chemically dependent kitchen sink lament Powder Blue I get asked by a bloke behind me “would you possibly mind stepping forward slightly”. In all the gigs I have ever been to I have never had such a polite request. It suddenly dawns on me that I don’t understand this crowd at all. But it is no wonder, these are nice people. Thirty somethings who have settled down to suburbia and have come out to hear ‘their’ song off that CD that they bought together. This is confirmed by the roaring trade being done by the merchandise stand, not in T-Shirts but cute Newborn baby grows!
The band has said that they don’t like the charade of an encore but have realised that is what is required, so a no nonsense encore is what they do. I may have been asleep at the back tonight but Elbow know who their audience is and their audience adore them.