Review/Gallery: ELBOW – live in Vancouver at Commodore Ballroom

Guy Garvey wanted everyone to put their hands up. “I knew you weren’t too cool for this, Vancouver,” he says, chuckling, and the crowd obliges. But there was so much love in the room for Elbow’s return to Canada that if the audience could have actually surged forward past the barricades, they’d hug Garvey, not reach for the ceiling.

Elbow, pic by Mikala Folb/backstagerider.comThe band, of course, replied in kind with the sound of a warm embrace. Elbow’s music has this uncanny ability to feel both rich and spacious. Songs start simply, quietly enough – whether it’s the whistle on “Lippy Kids”, the summer rain patter of “Mirrorball” or the shuffle and horns on “My Sad Captains”, Garvey’s incomparable lullaby voice wraps a blanket over us, lulling us. But then, before you can doze – and only if you’re watching carefully – the songs almost grow before your eyes. Roots and branches. There’s strings and double drums, piano and lush, fluid guitar. Orchestral manoeuvres in this dark. You stand back, smiling, admiring the beauty.

Present are songs mostly from The Take Off And Landing of Everything as well as from The  Seldom Seen Kid (with a few from Build a Rocket Boys! and scraps,”Scattered Black and Whites” from Asleep in the Back and the snoozy “Great Expectations” from Leaders of the Free World).  “Charge”, one of the best songs on Take Off kicked off the set, with a Massive Attack-y thrum. “I am electric/With a bottle in me/Got a bottle in me/And glory be these fuckers are ignoring me/I’m from another century,” Garvey sings hypnotically…before that voice wakes us again, and the song starts to unfurl: “HEY!” he and we shout! “I am the beau who loved her so/ in every song” – he sings as he throws his arms wide toward the audience. And the hands come back. It’s an everyman romance. “Lippy Kids” is a joyous singalong. “Let’s build a rocket, boys!” we all sing, and believe we can.

And Elbow know how to rollick, too. “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” has a great swing, with a squonky guitar and horns and cymbals. “Birds” starts per usual, unassumingly, but turns into a heaving, early-Gabriel trance-like march, and finishes with Garvey singing somehow into the heavens…for real, it felt like the roof opened. “Grounds for Divorce” became a monster party song, with people as far back as the top balcony dancing and swaying.  For the final moment, “One Day Like This”, the sound stopped and it was just the crowd singing not just in unison but in HARMONY: “Throw those curtains wide/One day like this a year would see me right.”

And it did. Hugs all around. \m/

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