Elbow's studio albums can sound a little antiseptic at times, however on stage they are a different prospect altogether. Tonight's show at the local swimming pool in Newport was a very different affair from the last time I saw them on The Take Off & Landing of Everything tour. That show matched the album's mood of quiet reflection with it's acoustic segment and orchestral backing. This time the evening reflected the celebratory feel of much of 'Little Fictions' lyrics. Stand in drummer Alex Reeves' more muscular style, Pete Turner playing more bass guitar than I have seen him do previously, and the strings cut back to two violins sparingly gave a feel of a band renewed by their life experiences rather than worn down by them.
I joined the Elbow party with their 'career defining' ™ appearance at Glastonbury and quickly worked my way back through their catalogue. It was good to hear Great Expectations from 2005's 'Leaders Of The Free World' tonight, with over half the new album played and the rest spread across the previous three records.
Craig Potter was on percussion for the opening songs. Opener 'Gentle Storm', as has been pointed out in several reviews, almost has a club feel to it. Pete Turner switched between Fender Jazz & Jaguar basses, and seemed to have fairly constant tuning problems, keyboards were on a riser at the back with the drums in a corner stage left. Of the new songs 'Kindling' and 'Magnificent (She Says)' stood out for me, but with a set list that included songs from at least five albums there was something for everyone. Elbow know their audience and in Guy Garvey have one of the outstanding frontmen, conducting the sing along, and creating an atmosphere of good cheer. My favourite of the audience participation numbers, 'Lippy Kids', was as good as I have heard. And then there is 'One Day Like This', restored to it's rightful place as show closer leaving room for encores of 'Kindling', 'My Sad Captains' and an exuberant 'Grounds For Divorce'. A great show.
Less great was the venue, while I understand the desire to play smaller places this 2000 capacity Badminton Court was crammed and with quite a low stage those of a lesser stature, me, were left struggling to see what was going on. Can't tell you a thing about what guitars Mark Potter was playing. Comments on Twitter suggest I wasn't the only one with this issue. The burger beforehand was one of the culinary experiences of my life, and it was noticeable that no more were served once ours had come out.
Support act C Duncan, came over as a mix of fellow Scots Aztec Camera circa 1983, and Fleet Foxes, a favourite on 6 Music apparently, he must work better on record. Mostly Harmless to coin a phrase.
Despite the slight reservations about the venue a genuinely great gig. Elbow are one of the preeminent live acts of the moment. When I saw them in 2014 there was a hint that shows were being recorded. All I can say is build a live album boys.
Buy Little Fictions at your music outlet of choice.
C Duncan's music is available on his Bandcamp page a listen to some samples suggests he is a subject for further investigation.