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Elbow – The Apollo, Manchester: Live Review

Elbow round off their UK tour with three nights in arguably their favourite room. We’re with them in the middle of the three night residency. Magnificent, we say.

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Elbow, Manchester Apollo, Wednesday 29th September 2021

We’re in the middle of a three night sell out run at the end of a particularly long UK jaunt which has seen several stop offs getting a couple of dates. A tour that ends in the hometown and a cause for jubilation and celebration as with Elbow, it tends to be a family occasion with extended groups of relatives and lots of friends in attendance.

In the past, I’ve even done the marathon of every gig in a four night run (February ’15 and March ’17), but in September 2021, the glut of shows as the live floodgates open and musicians get back on the road means that only one night is free for Elbow watching.

Support came from Jesca Hoop – a friend raved about her at a festival a few years back, so I’m familiar with her low key but severely beautiful songs, plus there’s a a short and occasionally humorous set (a musical interlude no less…) from Peter Jobson. Both of whom later added their presence to the main set; Jesca appearing Kate Bush like to haunt with some backing vox on the opening number, drenched in stark white light while Peter reappeared to lurk discreetly in the shadows later on.

Meanwhile, Elbow have made the most of the down time by recording new songs, so while Giants Of All Sizes has had short shrift in touring terms, the new album is imminent. However, just the one number gets an airing from Flying Dream 1. What Am I Without You comes described as one they felt would fit into the current set. The rest is a bit too…romantic? The new one certainly fits that bill. Played before the hefty thump of White Noise White Heat,just emphasised that it’s going to be an album that’s most chilled. They can save the rest for another tour and maybe mix things up a bit. Tonight was about getting reacquainted and hearing the songs and stories Elbow have become national treasures for.

We have a friendly reminder of Giants… (still available at all good retail outlets). Dexter & Sinister gets the honour of opening the set, the atmospheric intro/thudding march and the opening line of “I don’t know Jesus anymore” being perfect for purpose. That album will surely leave us one long term name on the setlist – evenf from hearing it first time round, Weightless is pretty peerless. A latter day Elbow classic, as they tend to serve up one luscious piece per album and this is one of such might that that seems set to belatedly become one of those Elbow songs. Back at The Ritz in 2019, it was introduced and like all the best Elbow songs, reaches deep into the oldest part of the brain to stir those emotions and induce the sort of intimate sentiment to which everyone in the room can relate.

The mass voices contributing to Magnificent (She Says) that’s emerging as an Elbow set-piece. One that sets off a run of Kindling, Weightless, The Birds and My Sad Captains. What a strike force.Talking of which, My Sad Captains and Kindling (audience participation, the sense of community and the breaking of the barriers prevalent again)extend the warm sentiment and give the evening n emotional glow. When Mr Garvey talks about friendships and relationships, the thought of carpe diem hangs heavy in the air. It’s thrilling too to hear Station Approach. An oldie but as much an Elbow signature tune (to me) as any of their popular hits and to be honest, a song that they should always be playing in their hometown.

The set also sees a hefty balance in favour of The Seldom Seen Kid album (which finally gives its name to a song title from the new album apparently) and who gets a mention as always in Grounds For Divorce. And while there’s much to be had for feeling right at home being back at an Elbow show, aside from his regular routine of stalking the lip of the stage as usual, pointing and acknowledging the fans, Garvey also climbing the risers to appear in elevated form a la James Maynard Keenan fashion, beneath a striking lighting rig with sharp laser beams making it feel like the band were protected by a roof of light.

It all builds up to the grand finale. There may be as yet undiscovered tribes deep in the Amazon Rainforest who could predict the home run combo of Grounds For Divorce, (cue massed hollering), Lippy Kids (cue tune free and tempo challenging whistling) and One Day Like This (cue celebratory arm swaying and singalongs). We’d already hear the Genesis equivalent last week with the Invisible Touch/I Can’t Dance crowdpleasers but it’s giving the masses just what they want and just when they need it.

The bonus now is that we can look forward to hearing Flying Dream 1 and seeing how Guy Garvey along with the Potters and the unassuming (and probably still woolly hatted) Pete Turner strike forth with their latest set of songs.

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