Venue: Center Stage, Atlanta
Supporting Act(s): Jesca Hoop
In the Company of: Pete M.
There are few greater experiences than being surprised. And surprised this examiner was when attending an Elbow concert for the first time. Actually, stunned is the word. After becoming familiar with this superb quintet just recently, this was worth the risk. It can genuinely be said, ladies and gentlemen, that the clouds parted that evening in Atlanta.
Hailing from the musically rich city of Manchester, England, Elbow just came off a supporting role on Coldplay’s Viva la Vida tour. My humble prediction is that their supporting days are officially over. However, on this night, they were the deserved headliners. The band’s name reportedly comes from the BBC mini-series “The Singing Detective,” in which Philip Marlow believes the word “elbow” to be the most sensuous word in the English language. Not necessarily for the definition, but for the feeling one gets when saying it.
After four studio albums which garnered massive critical success but limited commercial success, Elbow won the UK’s coveted and respected Mercury Prize in 2008 for their latest album The Seldom Seen Kid. Commercial success may finally be on their horizon.
Fronted by the dynamic and intensely charismatic Guy Garvey (lead vocals, guitar, and sometimes percussion), the band includes Mark Potter (guitar, backing vocals), brother Craig Potter (keyboards, organ, backing vocals), Pete Turner (bass guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), and Richard Jupp (drums). These five men make up the most well-oiled machine I’ve heard live in years. The musicianship is phenomenal, the vocals are emotionally brilliant, and the fans are incredible. newcomers surely felt like part of a minority in the crowd that night, not knowing every lyric.
Elbow kicked off the show with “Starlings,” the first track off their latest release. With Jupp at the drums, the remainder of the band stood at the foot of the stage, trumpets in hand to begin the song. Next up was the wonderful “The Bones Of You” (“So I’m there / Charging around with a juggernaut brow / Overdraft speeches and deadlines to make / Cramming commitments like cats in a sack…”).
On “Mirrorball,” a disco visual was resurrected with a huge mirror ball hanging high above the stage, reflecting onto everyone in the audience. On “Grounds For Divorce,” Garvey snatched up a pair of drumsticks and furiously beat a single drum. He is not just a singer, he is the heart and soul of Elbow. Singing “I’ve been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce / Polishing a compass that I hold in my sleep / Doubt comes in on sticks but then he kicks like a horse,” Garvey showcases his impressive song writing abilities which are exhibited in every song.
“Weather To Fly” had Garvey asking us, in a high falsetto, “Are we having the time of our lives / Are we coming across clear / Are we coming across fine / Are we part of the plan here?” The answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes.
One of the more uplifting and poignant moments of the night came with the brilliant “One Day Like This.” Uplifting because of Garvey’s lyrics; poignant because the fans knew, felt, and sang all the words…and they’re great words: “What made me behave that way? / Using words I never say / I can only think it must be love / Oh anyway, it’s looking like a beautiful day.” To hear that full Center Stage crowd singing in unison, “It’s looking like a beautiful day!” was exhilarating and I hated being the newcomer.
Touring in support of her debut Hunting My Dress, Jesca Hoop warmed the crowd up sufficiently with her singer/songwriter acoustic set. Guy Garvey even lent himself to a duet with her.