Newport Centre - 10th March 2017
Support: C Duncan
I have to admit, I was feeling a bit lukewarm at the prospect of this show. I've followed Elbow since their first album and seen them become the biggest band in the country. However I've been left a little cold by some of their more recent records. It's felt a bit like they've been treading water rather than exploring new paths. Having said that, there have been some moments of brilliance. I hoped, rather than expected, that I'd get something that excited me.
I also hoped, as I often do at gigs, that the support band would grab my attention. Unfortunately, Glasgow's C Duncan didn't cut it. I wondered what colour would best represent his brand of indie-pop, but couldn't make my mind up between beige or magnolia. Whichever is the least interesting. I'd lost interest halfway through the second song. It's not that he was bad, just that his music sounded safe, inoffensive and sterile, and I couldn't remember any of the songs within 5 seconds of him finishing them.
Elbow do seem to light a place up though. Guy Garvey is just so likeable you can't help but want to love them. Their set included half the songs from their new album, their best since 'The Seldom Seen Kid' catapulted them firmly into the hearts of the mainstream audience. Of these, All Disco stood out, as it does on the album. Other major highlights were New York Morning which was truly stunning, and The Birds which totally floored me.
Of course they gave an airing to One Day Like This, Elbow's Losing My Religion in that it's the song that made them, but also the one I'm sick of. There was a lengthy segment in the middle of it where Guy had the audience singing, and I think that's when I realised what the one problem was for me. The last time we saw Elbow was also at the Newport Centre just after 'The Seldom Seen Kid' came out and it all felt rather intimate. They were on the verge of becoming huge then but were still not quite mainstream enough for your average person to have heard of them. This time around, MrsRobster observed there was "a lot of arm waving." She's right, Guy does seem to have gone a bit stadium rock with the arm waving and the call & response with the audience a la Freddie Mercury. So he's playing to the crowd, and if any band deserves the success they have after slogging it out for years with little recognition it's Elbow. But I never had them down as a stadium rock band, and at times it felt like that's what they'd become. That intimacy they still had 8 years ago seemed lost.
That said, on closing with a massive Grounds For Divorce, another highlight, I felt glad I'd made the effort. Elbow may now be the nation's favourite band, but even though MrsRobster and I agree that we enjoyed them a little more the last time we saw them, that doesn't mean they get a thumbs down. They are still more than interesting enough to hold my attention and, as they proved a couple of times during the show, even wow me on occasion.