Elbow @ The Fineline w/ The Watson Twins 4/30/08
Elbow The Watson Twins
Elbow made a triumphant return to Minneapolis last evening, playing in front of quite a boisterous and effusive crowd at The Fine Line. Touring behind their excellent new album, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid,’ the band really made a connection with the admiring audience (perhaps too much so, based on the band’s reaction to the Jägermeister shots given to them by a fan during the set,) and lead singer Guy Garvey really was in good spirits, even brushing off sound problems in his earpiece during the opening number ‘Starlings,’ by claiming that the normal voices that are always in his head were there, he just wasn’t hearing his own voice. Sound problems also seemed to mar the second song ‘Bones of You,’ as the band struggle to find it’s footing, but the track is so solid that the strength of the song overrode any technical glitches, and the song soared.
The set was very heavy on new material, which was expected, however I was quite disappointed that only one song off of the excellent ‘Cast Of Thousands’ album was played-to be sitting on songs as strong as ‘Fugitive Motel,’ ‘Switching Off,’ and ‘Not A Job,’ and to not play any of them seemed criminal, but luckily the depth and emotional potency of the songs they did play made me forget about my gripe. The new songs are more earnest and emotive when played live due to Guy’s incredible vocal range (even when battling a cold as he was last night), as well as the addition of two lovely violinists who really rounded out the sound of the Mancunian five-piece. Standouts from the new record include ‘Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver,’ ‘Mirrorball,’ switching on a Mirrorball for added effect, which would have been cheesy if they song wasn’t so damn good, and the propulsive first single, ‘Grounds For Divorce.
Guy remarked that the size of the Fine Line was the preferred size of club for the band to play, and the intimacy of the venue really added to the festive nature of the show. Guy continually responded to shouts from the crowd, engaging them and laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the things said (“You make me feel vulnerable.”) Granted, this got a touch old at times, (“I was in a musical. A law school musical.” Good for you, dude, now shut up,) but Guy played along with it, and seemed quite entertained by the audience for the most part-again, that might be because of the Jägermeister. I think that a band would much rather have a spirited, rambunctious audience, than one that keeps silent and funeral-like, and that collective energy really helped make the show a memorable one.
I’ve never really cared for what is perhaps Elbow’s best-known song, ‘Newborn,’ from their debut album ‘Asleep In The Back,’ finding it rather derivative and dull on record, but last nights live version was epic and sprawling, with the entire band carrying the song to staggering heights. It was massive, and the crowd was summarily floored. They kept that energy going with the fantastic crowd sing-along in set closer ‘One Day Like This,’ with everyone in the club helping out with the ‘Throw those curtains wide…’ bit. The connection was certainly felt by both band and audience. It was everything a rock show should be. But there was a twist for the encore, with the band claiming that they will only come back out if we sing a song to them. After much deliberation, ‘Purple Rain’ was the song chosen, and it turned out to be way too difficult for the drink soaked crowd to handle-so, second choice song ‘Lean On Me,’ was substituted to much better results. It was quite a fitting song to choose, since the first encore was ‘Puncture Repair,’ with it’s first verse of ‘I leaned on you today…’ Perfect.
The intimacy of the venue came into play during the second song of the encore, while Guy was singing the beautiful and heartbreaking ‘Scattered Black and Whites,’ he made eye contact with a girl who was crying to the song, and I saw that it so struck him emotionally, that his eyes became glassy with tears as well, and he couldn’t look at her for the rest of the song for fear of losing it himself. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen in Arena shows. The song was simply stunning. The version was so astounding, it was the only song I was thinking about after the show. Their set should have just stopped there, actually. But the obligatory set closer ‘Grace Under Pressure,’ followed, and while Guy plunging into the audience to sing, watch the band, and hug/cheer the crowd helped, it seemed a little bit of a let down after the phenomenal ‘Scattered…’
Elbow have been a band for 18 years, which I couldn’t believe-especially after considering that they have only released four proper full length records in that time. But they survive and continue to make amazing music based on their incredible songwriting and percipient lyrics, and Guy’s amazing voice. All were on display last evening, and after that inspiring and uplifting performance. Elbow solidified itself amongst their fans as a band to be revered and respected. And I can’t help but feel the band felt the same way about the audience last evening. A wonderful show. And did I mention how cute the violinists were?
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And of course how could we forget the set list