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:: Elbow ::
03 October 2003 / Academy 1 / Manchester
By Rob Allen

No sooner had the words “Academy please mate” entered the dark driver’s section of the cab, as we began our journey to the Manchester Academy, the response had been anticipated and delivered by our host. “Elbow is it, lads?” queried the driver to my amazement. It triggered a thought process that would last pretty much the entire evening. Just how had Elbow come to this?

Well, the driver’s response was cued by the fact that his last drop off had been the Academy and earlier it had actually been a member of the band, it didn’t take many more clues to guess that we might just have been going the same way. It still can’t be discounted however that the anticipation that surrounded the homecoming of the unlikely Mancunian starlets, had caused something of a stir that may just have affirmed their coming of age. From ploughing through set after set in The Roadhouse a few years back, to the bright lights of the Academy 1, Elbow are a sought after ticket.

When Mark “Lard” Riley introduces the band, there is illustrated the only of Elbow contradiction. The clown prince of Radio One, representing a decade of silly voices and sillier tribute bands, introducing the elaborate, delicate Elbow. They are a band with a great sense of humour that peddle a repertoire of murky romance and dark brooding sentiments. In between heart breaking melodies and hollering vocals, Guy Garvey is at one with his home crowd throughout the gig, enjoying the banter with typical dry humour. The opener “Ribcage” does it’s very best to bring the show to a great start but it is the tracks from the first album that make the greatest impression.

“Red” cannot be faulted as a standout track, a landmark in the bands back catalogue and one that can be filed under “classic” in the Manchester rock archives. The band is given license to hit full swing as Garvey beats his acoustic to a pulp. “Scattered Black and Whites” hits another mood altogether and is enough to leave you open mouthed, if not a little emotionally involved after a few pints to loosen you up. The beauty of the song is where Elbow make this ground their own, light fingers and lyrics that flow effortlessly through you. With Garvey suited and booted, he looks like a slightly ruffled but classic crooner and isn’t far off the mark when it comes to his vocal performance. The band as a total entity come together impressively with three man vocal harmonies and a rhythm section that provides formidable support. “Newborn” leaves you rooted to the spot, defining that particular cliché beyond all doubt.

The event is closed by “Grace Under Pressure” and it’s gospel chorus fills the room, an impressive end to another impressive Elbow show. Whether they are accurately described as “prog-rock” or not, there is something about Elbow tonight that certainly brackets much of their work as epic. The backdrops, the respectful participation of the crowd and the strongest set that they could have played made tonight at the Academy another Elbow gig it was a privilege to attend. For a band to sound like this, breaking a few moulds on their incredibly long journey, and become the darlings of T4 and play on Top Of The Pops is incredible. But the soul of the band lies in the performance and they appear to enjoy it as much as we do.

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