I've always had amazing luck every time I see Elbow in that, I always manage to be right down front, and Guy Garvey, as one of the most giving and friendly performers around, leaning out over the crowd, seems to be striving to connect with each audience member. This was just how it was on April 8, 2006, when I saw them at Avalon, for the first time, and that was how it was again last night, Saturday, October 1, 2011. at The Greek. I felt so lucky to be in the pit to really get to enjoy that unique audience connection this band always achieves.
The evening began with me taking my seat in the Terrace (before getting into the pit) where I was able to enjoy the riviting performance by DeVotchKa, who wowed the crowd with their free-wheeling gypsy/punk take on Eastern European music. Gloriously sung by Nick Urata, whose voice is one of the wonders of the world to me, his recordings only capture a part of his full, gigantic voice. The rest of he band is so talented, from the astonishing violin virtuoso, Tom Hagerman, and Jeanie Schroder, whether on her xmas light-festooned sousaphone or the flute, to Shawn King on percussion and trumpet. They were augmented with an additional trumpet as well, enlarging their sound. They could have gone on much longer, but made way for the headliners.
Elbow took off right out of the gate with "The Birds", the opening track from their new album which sets the bar so high that the rest of the album has trouble competing, I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I haven't been overly impressed with their latest album, Build a Rocket Boys, but this song is one of their best ever and to hear the rest of it live made all the difference. And this song does seem like the epitome of the perfect Elbow song, with it relentless driving beat, and highly orchestrated industrial strength sound overlayed by the smooth and effortless vocals of Guy Garvey.
It was a set list distinguished with unusual choices, like the quiet, lyrical numbers "Great Expectations" "Weather To Fly" and "Puncture Repair". And the way the set was interspersed with liberal doses of material from Leaders Of The Free World and especially The Seldom Seen Kid made the whole show a series of high points. The power of "Starlings", where the whole band mans blaring trumpets, while lights blasted the stage. Great care is always taken with their visual presentation as well. "The Bones of You"was beautifully done, and the haunting, hypnotic "Mirrorball" still weaves it's spell with the lighting effects that make you feel like you're standing in the center of a rotating globe. Guy carefully instructed the crowd on their part in "Grounds For Divorce" before launching into the song proper, but his attention to detail resulted in a highly spirited rendition of the song including a very willing audience, which had him beaming as he pounded away on the two drums provided him for this number.
"Lippy Kids" is a song that begins with a far off whistle that's overtaken by a lurching beat so that Guy can prompt the audience to wave their arms back and forth in time to the beat as he reaches out like he wants to touch each person that's in front of him. He does that at every concert. Talk about a fully engaged performer.
The rest of the band left the stage for the unbelievably moving "Puncture Repair" leaving only Craig Potter on piano followed immediately by "The River" from the new album for a pair of stunning duets between piano and Guy Garvey's passionate vocals. I was moved to tears.
The night ended with a three song encore capped by an electrifying version of "Station Approach" followed by the anthemic "One Day Like This" which sends the audience out on a high the likes of which I've only seen a few times. The art of the strong, charismatic lead singer is alive and well represented by these two bands. As well as these two singers have been recorded, they only hint at the immeasurable range and power of their live sound. This was a evening for the annals of history.