The first thing noticeable upon entering the theatre at the Danforth Music Hall on May 17th was the cover art from the band’s new album The Take Off and Landing of Everything, a colossal marble infant, eyes downcast, daring us to catch its eyes. As a sold out show, the general admission area of the hall was packed and suitably sweaty, already early in the evening. The sound of a violin warming up drifted over us from backstage. The atmosphere of both symphony and rock concert smashed together. The nicety of standing in a giant room with a bunch of other like-minded individuals. The light show executed by a technician. All these aspects were performed with a perfection that made it appear planned, which of course it was. The band launched into their performance, with lead vocalist Guy Garvey introducing members throughout the night, and sounded almost Radiohead-esque, but without all the existential angst. There was an emphasis on drums drums drums.
This last point is actually pretty predictable, as Guy Garvey himself has a background playing percussion, and did take to the second drum set himself later on in the night. The music was heavily layered, with no spaces, no silence, only sound. The performance itself was perfect. Live performances are about real-ness. An audience likes to see mistakes, or at least something to make the night memorable and unique from any pre-recorded stuff they can listen to a home. It’s always nice to see some mistakes.
The night before, the band, which has been around since 1997, played live on Jimmy Fallon a song called New York Morning from their new album. In other words, in some cases, it takes seventeen years before a band can become widely successful. And it seems Elbow approaches the fame not with an attitude that they deserve it, but with one of ultimate gratitude and joy. In fact, the performance was embracing. To envelope an audience of several hundred people with the same feeling of inclusion and contentedness is surprisingly rare. The music was melancholic, desperate, loving, emotionally moving, layered with incredible detail, and meticulously crafted.
Guy Garvey stood before us like a gladiator (are you not entertained?!), raising his arms and almost telekinetically controlling the crowd; he asked us to wave, we waved, he asked us to sing, and we roared. The night closed with the song One Day Like This, from their 2008 album The Seldom Seen Kid (audience on back-up vocals), and with his charisma, it was no surprise that the crowd was eating out of the palm of Guy Garvey’s hand.
Emily Fox | @foxyfoxe