Music review: Elbow, Hydro, Glasgow

They may not sound dangerous or challenging, but Elbow can still bring moments of vivid emotional connection, writes David Pollock

Elbow, Hydro, Glasgow ***

“I only changed that lyric for you, I don’t do it everywhere,” Elbow’s laid-back singer Guy Garvey announced to the Hydro, after an alteration of Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’s lyric about wanting “a bottle of good Irish whiskey” to reference the Scottish version of the drink instead.

Now ten albums into a recorded career which has lasted since 2001 (although as Garvey pointed out before the friendship-themed song Puncture Repair, they’ve been together for a decade longer) Elbow’s music continues to resemble something like the emotional peaks and troughs of a hungover morning following a big night out.

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Guy GarveyGuy Garvey
Guy Garvey

One recurring story of the evening concerned the previous night’s drunken exploits with support group The Waeve, aka musical and relationship partners Graham Coxon, of Blur, and Rose Elinor Dougall, formerly of the Pipettes. The recent parents chose to forego a deserved good night’s sleep when Garvey turned up bearing bottles of wine.

“He arrived like Bacchus,” said Coxon, whose guitar still comfortably filled an arena, set against Dougall’s keyboard and some accompanying saxophone on the smokily regretful urbanity of City Lights and Sleepwalking, and the cresting, Elbow-like anthems You Saw and Druantia. In turn, Garvey recommended them both as excellent people to be around.

If heads were tender, Elbow have always made music to soothe. The grinding, wry chanson Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years and the new album Audio Vertigo’s lead single Lover’s Leap soon gave way to the comforting likes of Mirrorball and Charge.

This band rarely sound like a danger or a challenge; only special guest Jesca Hoop’s beautiful, wordless holler in the background of Dexter & Sinister or the belated attack in a final straight featuring Good Blood Mexico City, Station Approach and Grounds for Divorce came close.

Yet, as Garvey’s mustering of the entire audience as a four-part chorus before the inevitably epic closer One Day Like This demonstrated, a group of nice blokes performing what’s expected of them can still bring moments of vivid emotional connection.

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