“Is everybody okay?” That was the question Guy Garvey, lead singer for Elbow, asked the capacity crowd at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles several times. Anyone fortunate enough to be at this concert was more than okay, for Elbow once again delivered a beautiful and utterly impressive performance.
A special thanks to my new friend Jane that I met on this evening. She was sitting in front of me and we ended up chatting in between the DeVotchKa and Elbow sets. It turns out she read the pre-Elbow concert post from Friday, September 30 and that post inspired her to go to the show. 🙂 I often wonder if anyone outside my circle of friends (besides Allyn!) reads this blog, so this was a welcome exprience. Cheers Jane!
A lot has happened since I last saw this band back in May 2008 at the Bluebird Theater in Denver. Elbow captured the 2008 Mercury Award in 2008 for Album of the Year with The Seldom Seen Kid and was nominated this year for their fifth album build a rocket boys! The band has appeared on late night talk shows and played bigger venues on this tour in the States than previous trips. More important, they have achieved stadium status on their continent and earned consistent slots on the big stages for U.K. festivals, including a 2011 Glastonbury performance on the Pyramid Stage that music journalist Stuart Maconie stated was “career defining.”
Let’s talk about the opener DeVotchKa from Denver, Colorado. I saw this eclectic four-piece headline night one of the 2008 Monolith Festival. They were good that evening; they were excellent this evening! Stellar set of Latino, folk rock and gypsy music that combined creates one of the more unique styles of indie rock you will hear. This band is worth seeing for Tom Hagerman, who plays violin, accordion, and piano, and Jeanie Schroder, who sings and plays sousaphone, double bass and flute. I wish I knew the name of the last song, incredible energy from all four members combined to put together an ultra-frenetic classic piece of music with a heavy Salsa rhythm. Great way to start the evening!
Elbow took the stage around 8:30pm and even from my seat toward the back of section B I could tell Guy Garvey was simply beaming. Guitarist Mark Potter, keyboardist Craig Potter, bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp took their respective places on stage and launched into a spirited delivery of the lead track from their latest album, “The Birds”. The longest track the band has put on record became even more grand in a live setting, with Mark’s hypnotic picking on the guitar the perfect complement to Garvey’s crooning on the mic. The stunning conclusion of the song set up neatly by Craig Potter’s work on the keyboards produced the perfect beginning to the show.
Elbow is truly special in an indoor, intimate setting, but once the band began to experience serious worldwide success with the release of The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008 they realized they were going to be playing stadiums and amphitheaters. The band has not skipped a beat and can deliver an up-tempo indie rock number such as “Neat Little Rows” incredibly well, then turn around and bring down the tempo considerably on a tune such as “Great Expectations” to create just as magical and inspiring a setting.
The sixteen song set concentrated on material from the band’s last three albums, Leaders of the Free World, The Seldom Seen Kid and build a rocket boys! I was going to list personal highlights of the set, but all sixteen songs qualify! When trying to select standout moments from an Elbow concert it comes down more to extra things that occurred along with the delivery of the song.
Cases in point?
- The use of the “disco ball” once again during “Mirrorball” just like the Denver show three years ago, adding an even more delicate and lovely element to the setting for that gorgeous tune.
- The epic vocal delivery by Guy Garvey during “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver”. Three years after the release of The Seldom Seen Kid this may be my favorite track from the album. It definitely is the most intense.
- The passion from both of the Potters and Garvey during a beautiful rendition of “Great Expectations”.
- Guy Garvey telling the story behind the creation of “Puncture Repair”, then the majority of the Greek Theater crowd respecting the subtle, quiet delivery that song requires to truly experience its message and magic. Except for the douchebags sitting to my right of course.
- “Lippy Kids”. This song was the first the band put on the web back on Boxer Day 2010 and has become a consistent highlight of a performance from Elbow. It may be the best representation of just how good Garvey is on vocals.
- All five members of Elbow gathering around Craig’s piano to drink together in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary, a ritual that according t0 Garvey has become a staple on this tour. Then the five launching into a spirited rendition of the first verse from “Weather to Fly” before separating and finishing the track from their respective positions onstage.
- “Open Arms” was the track from build a rocket boys! I was looking forward to seeing live most and it was just as wonderful as I expected. All five members delivered the chorus of this song in glorious harmony, inspiring one of the better sing-a-longs from the crowd of the evening. A great way to end the first set.
- All three songs of the encore were unbelievable! “Starlings” was the opener for the entire show when I saw Elbow three years ago, the opener for the encore on this evening. The guys still “play” the horns during the song and Garvey’s voice an hour or so into the set was just as fresh, critical on this amazing song. “Station Approach” is one of the band’s best tunes, a song that builds and builds and builds with the repeated lyrics of “I never know what I want but I know when I’m low that I, I need to be in the town where they know what I’m like and don’t mind.” The explosion from the band once that lyric series ends is truly special.
- “One Day Like This”? A perfect way to end a great evening, a song that simply resonates with positive vibes, an outstanding tempo and another example of how well all five members of Elbow harmonize together.
Mark on the guitar, Pete on the bass, Craig on the keyboards and Jupp on the drums are so tight as a unit, what an impressive band to watch play together. The four of them are incredibly precise and with the two ladies on the strings that accompany the band on tour, this is a six-piece unit that delivers a sound not many bands come close to duplicating. Garvey has become an even more engaging frontman than when I last saw the band, cracking jokes, telling stories, choosing appropriate times to curse (“fock” sounds so much more eloquent”) and most of all, continuing to maintain his position (IMHO) as the best vocalist in rock and roll today. It’s not even close folks.
I am pretty sure this is the exact set list from the show, I did my best to keep track during the concert:
- The Birds
- The Bones of You
- Neat Little Rows
- Grounds for Divorce
- The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
- Great Expectations
- The Night Will Always Win
- Puncture Repair
- The River
- Lippy Kids
- Weather to Fly
- Open Arms
- Station Approach
- One Day Like This
Since I have seen Elbow before I can’t help but make the inevitable comparisons. The show is Denver still ranks as my all-time favorite concert. The band sounded even better during this concert but a few factors made this show a bit different:
- The crowd was pretty lame and sedate. The Bluebird Theatre crowd was so much more energetic and vocal, creating a better atmosphere. By the way, only standing for tunes such as “Grounds for Divorce” does not make you a true fan.
- Guy did not play the guitar at all. I miss that.
- Songs from the first two Elbow albums Asleep in the Back and Cast of Thousands were noticeably absent. Trust me, that did not detract from the incredible show the band delivered, but after hearing my two favorite Elbow tracks “Newborn” and “Grace Under Pressure” three years ago I would have loved to have seen them live once again.
If you missed out I feel for you. Actually I don’t, you blew it. The Greek Theater is a magnificent venue, I look forward to seeing a concert there again one of these days. Elbow? I will see them many more times my friends.