Elbow- Manchester Cathedral gig: live review
'where's the soup kitchen' Elbow- Manchester Cathedral gig: live review

Elbow
Manchester Cathedral
October 28th 2011

Review from our friends at Backstreetindie

Last night Manchester was all aglow with Elbow, as the home-town boys returned to play a unique gig at the most unlikeliest of venues, Manchester Cathedral. Those lucky enough to get a ticket packed into the glorious ancient venue; those without braved the icy cold October night to cram into Exchange Square, poised to watch the gig on the big screen. The backdrop of the big wheel and the fairy lit trees really did create a kind of magical Elbow wonderland in the city. Manchester’s favourite indie band had arrived home and fans couldn’t be happier.

Unlike many Manchester bands before them who have since departed to the big Smoke or celeb land LA, Elbow remain true to their northern roots and talk openly in a series of pre-gig interviews with Jo Whiley about the importance of Manchester to their music. Guy Garvey recounts how much he thrives on Manchester culture, often observing Manchester life as it passes by, notebook (or bus ticket!) in hand, ready to write the next song. Like Lowry, Garvey seems able to capture single moments from the everyday, the ordinary, that are able to encapsulate the mood of an entire generation. No matter where in the world you come from, Elbow’s lyrics resonate loudly, even with its unmistakable beat of Mancunia.

Elbow- Manchester Cathedral gig: live review
'Where's the soup kitchen' Elbow - Manchester Cathedral gig - live review

Unlike many Manchester bands before them who have since departed to the big Smoke or celeb land LA, Elbow remain true to their northern roots and talk openly in a series of pre-gig interviews with Jo Whiley about the importance of Manchester to their music. Guy Garvey recounts how much he thrives on Manchester culture, often observing Manchester life as it passes by, notebook (or bus ticket!) in hand, ready to write the next song. Like Lowry, Garvey seems able to capture single moments from the everyday, the ordinary, that are able to encapsulate the mood of an entire generation. No matter where in the world you come from, Elbow’s lyrics resonate loudly, even with its unmistakable beat of Mancunia.

Around 40,000 people had applied for tickets to the 1000 capacity venue. Through BBC Radio 2’s In Concert series, around 500 tickets were given away and around three quarters of the ticket allocation happily went to fans from the North West. Parts of the gig were broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 as well as across BBC interactive and the internet. The setting was both imposing and majestic and the sight of a disco ball spinning around the rafters of Manchester Cathedral certainly isn’t something you see every day. The band opened with the beautiful track The Birds, its dreamy poetic lyrics bouncing off the six-hundred year old cathedral walls that Garvey tells us all about moments later. Poignantly, Garvey reminds us of the importance of communal singing and cathedrals, and the ability it has to bring people from all walks of life together in a single moment. Indeed, the 1000 strong crowd inside were joined in collective singing alongside those fans singing along in Exchange Square, even if the thick cathedral walls kept out their freezing voices. Mirrorball followed before an impromptu hymn-homage to Manchester. “It went down better in Liverpool” Garvey joked; the crowd responded with some half-hearted jovial boos before singing along en mass to the gutsy Grounds from Divorce from the band’ s Mercury Prize Winning Seldom Seen Kid.

The mesmerised faces of those stood in Exchange Square summed up the stunning The Night will Always Win as the band bared their soul for all to see. Its passion, poetry and metaphorical journey into the light and dark of human nature, life and death explored, seemed a particularly poignant song to sing at the Cathedral. The backing from the wonderful Halle Youth Orchestra only added to its perfect beauty. Lippy Kids with its Blakean innocence and experience undertone followed before the band huddled together for a quick toast and rendition of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. I’m sure many in the crowd thought back to the first moment they heard Elbow at this notable point in the bands career. I remember, a few years ago, being sat in the indie “Big Hands” on Oxford Road as a Fresher when my friend played Elbow on the jukebox. At this point, I had no idea that the band could often be found there, observing those single moments, writing poems, potential lyrics. After hearing the song I immediately went into the Manchester University Student Union seeking a copy of their album from Crocodile Records. I was handed a shiny E.P. vinyl. I bought everything before, and everything after. This was a band I fell in love with the first time I heard them. Many fans I spoke to on the night recounted similar stories, similar love affairs. This moment was indeed a testament to the hard work, the mountains climbed, the unwavering dedication to creating their own sound, their own poetic stories.

Beaming smiles stretched from the Cathedral right along to Exchange square as Whether to Fly was performed. Those in Exchange Square were paid homage to by Garvey all night, ever aware that they were no doubt freezing outside. Open Arms was anthemic, as was my personal favourite On a Day Like This to which everyone sang loudly and rapturously. A quick scotch and a brief appearance from Jo Whiley on stage and the band were now streaming out their encore live on on BB6 music. Dedications to parents, friends and family were followed Some Riot, The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver and he poignant Dear Friends.

A ”˜trumpet’ finale before Starlings, Station Approach and Scattered Black and Whites completed the set. The memories of Elbow’s music during this gig will continue to echo through the imposing Gothic walls of the Cathedral for many years to come, as will the sight of that glitter-ball reflecting on the stained glass and guitars”¦

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