When, earlier this week, Andy Kershaw said describing a new album as a “grower” was just a polite way of saying there weren’t any good songs on it, I thought to myself “I bet he’s not an Elbow fan.” You can’t pass a verdict on a new Elbow album after just one listen, there’s too much going on, lyrics to digest, layers of sound to work through and so on.
So this is not going to be a review of the new songs the band played last night at their warm up show at Cambridge Junction, although I can’t think of a better way of hearing them for the first time than in a small, dark, hot venue, sticking to the floor and sweating alongside a bunch of like-minded people. This was an Elbow gig of old.
“We haven’t played these before,” announces Guy before a single note has been played. “So we’ll probably fuck them up a bit, forget the words, and stuff like that.” (He does, later, forget the words to the second verse of ‘Starlings’ and has to be helped out by the crowd.) The band are all looking very dapper, besuited (in a casual way – Pete has accessorised with a woolly bobble hat) Craig has shed some weight and Guy’s hair is looking so lovely it’s difficult to resist running my hands through it. (Obviously I can’t reach. Also I’d be too shy even if I could reach.)
The first half of the show features a lot of the new album, each new song introduced by Guy who talks about what he was thinking when writing it – at one point he announces his disappointment at a journalist thinking the title of “The Night Will Always Win” was spelt with a K. “Yes, it’s actually a song about medieval warfare.” He sounds slightly aggrieved. And with good reason, as it is quite clear what the meaning is when they play it. The crowd stand and listen intently – I’m looking forward to really absorbing this one when the new album’s out next week.
The second half of the show has more of the old songs on it, though mainly off Seldom Seen Kid – they play my two favourites from Leaders of the Free World but nothing older than that. There’s the usual banter and one moment when Mark is being encouraged to play “Back in Black” by Guy and the crowd – he refuses. Disappointing. Nevertheless there was no way we’d really be disappointed by the band or the gig and the mutual affection between the band and the crowd is evident. Guy is in top form, his voice is really strong and soars his way through their best numbers – Tower Crane Driver as usual a highlight.
“There’ll be a lot of these – 160 of them or so,” says Guy at the end, “before we do another album. So thanks for making this first one so good.”
We end with a rousing singalong of ‘One Day Like This’ but it’s the chorus of ‘Lippy Kids’ that stays with me as we make our way home.
Thank you – see you at Nottingham Arena in 2 weeks time. x
The Bones of You
Neat Little Rows
The Night Will Always Win
Grounds for Divorce
Tower Crane Driver
Weather to Fly
One Day like This