Gig review - Elbow

Being able to fill arenas hasn't changed Elbow's attitude. Picture: PA

Being able to fill arenas hasn't changed Elbow's attitude. Picture: PA

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THE received wisdom is that once an artist makes it to arena level, it becomes necessary to expand their act to fit the increased space. Elbow, however, a band who have made it entirely on their own terms and aren’t about to compromise now, approach a crowd of more than 10,000 fans with much the same attitude as they would a fraction of that number.

Elbow - The Hydro, Glasgow

****

No-one comes to an Elbow gig for nosebleed pace or gaudy spectacle anyway. Instead the budget went into some classy lighting and a bijou orchestral ensemble. But, even so, this show was a very mellow sell, kicking off with the moody meditation of Charge, tastefully gilded with strings, and progressing at a steady, sedate pace for the best part of 90 minutes.

Following a soothing selection of new songs, heartfelt favourite The Night Will Always Win was, if anything, even barer. But it was here, communicating its bruised everyman sentiment, that singer Guy Garvey, pictured, came into his own.

As well as being a fine vocalist, no note nor delivery out of place, Garvey is very comfortable in his skin and an unfalteringly generous presence, able to get the room onside without resorting to any corny frontman moves.

Rather, he would amble periodically along a walkway into the middle of the crowd, all the better to deliver his empathetic observations, as if taking a stroll in his local park.

But he was playful too, canvassing the room for those on a first date, asking the audience to wish his niece a happy birthday in lieu of a present, encouraging some freestyle hands-in-the-air moves which some punters took to with balletic enthusiasm, and vainly trying to coax a show of feelings from the men of Glasgow.

On this latter point, he succeeded only in raising a male voice choir to join in on the stomping, earthy Grounds For Divorce, marking a rare lusty moment in an otherwise understated display of emotion.

Of the new songs, My Sad Captains, a fond salute to old drinking buddies, remained just the right side of sentimental with its mournful brass interlude and has the potential to become an audience singalong favourite.

But for the moment, there was only one way to conclude an Elbow set – with the expected but no less affecting jubilation of One Day Like This.

FIONA SHEPHERD

Seen on 06.04.14

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