elbow – The Ritz, Manchester
Date: 15th October 2019
With Giants Of All Sizes out less than a week (our review here), elbow are on the promo trail with a handful of radio appearances and visits to a couple of lucky towns to show off some new songs to their public.
Doubling up with early evening and late shows in a ‘stripped back’ format in Leeds, London and Manchester, we were at both shows at Manchester’s Ritz to see how the new songs were shaping up.
The sentimental visit to The Ritz – eighteen years almost to the day since their debut show there apparently – proved an evening of warm reminiscing with stories (“too many that I can’t tell”) revolving around loving a place and knowing it so well for so long. Sold out, but sensibly, so there was breathing space and only friends and family on the balcony, and a particularly intimate closeness about the early and later evening sets.
Yes, Guy could probably write a book of his reminiscences about The Ritz and after an obvious chorus of Put It On The Ritz to kick off proceedings continued to regale the people of Manchester with tales of rainbow ponchos and his days of trying to be interesting in various pockets of the famous old venue. We had “shall I do the Rage Against The Machine story?” while Clint Boon got a mention in dispatches as did John Cooper Clark with a verse of his famous poem about the sartorial requirement for females at The Ritz, all the while trying to manage the problem caused by the fashionably longer fringe he sports at the moment.
Although he’s the focal point, as the five musicians all sit in a storyteller session punctuated by the music, Garvey is flanked by his reluctant hero mates the Potters and the setting for once gives us a chance to appreciate some of Craig’s tumbling piano and admire the ‘when not to play’ minimalism. And finally, Alex Reeves is finally more visible and doing a sterling job replacing founder Richard Jupp.
Three of the Giants songs went out to the public. Empires we’ve had teased and Seven Veils is another minimal piece with a tribal beat. However, it was the dip into elbow history (without the obligatory throwing wide of curtains) that blessed the occasion. The significant nod to their earlier songs saw a Newborn had Guy Garvey picking up the guitar from a strum and to try out that ‘thumb over the top of the neck technique’ that sees the left elbow cocked upward and the grand climax reined into a sudden well-timed finish. The familiar story of the marriage that took place on the 135 that, to this day, the bride is still unaware of precedes Great Expectations but there was no need for any sort of intro to Scattered Black And Whites, although he did elaborate for the late show the unmistakable and familiar pattering on the cymbals and gentle march rhythm
A courteous hush descends as he sings of coming back here from time to time – “I shelter here some days” – their best song and a sublime, transcendent moment. What you’d call the worth the ticket price alone and at £14 an absolute bargain. A match for the delivery of the song in Manchester Cathedral and at Jodrell Bank seven years ago with fireworks exploding overhead. Followed by the highlight of the new album, Weightless, which live is a much meatier proposition that the graceful procession of the album version, the pairing is a stunning close. The sentiments of lost friends and family and the joy of new life celebrated respectfully.
A crowd-pleasing Grounds For Divorce is the chance to let off some steam and the crowd drift out safe in the knowledge that elbow’s return to the more intimate venues – they’re back at the Apollo next year – is an experience to savour.
Magnificent (She Says)
Scattered Black And Whites
Grounds For Divorce
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.