There’s something about Elbow that just screams ‘Dad Rock’. Whether it’s the mellow tone, accessible lyrics or understated image, the feeling you’ve fallen into your parents’ record collection is almost inescapable. However, there is an uplifting sense of camaraderie underpinning their music. The anthemic quality of their huge choruses are infectious; echoed by thousands in vast arenas, it’s awe inspiring. While tonight’s combination of thrust-stage and string section might initially confuse Elbow with a middle-class Bon Jovi, all doubts are dispelled as Guy Garvey takes to the stage. Raising his pint to the crowd, his warm greeting could be from any man, in any pub, anywhere.
As the initial excitement wears off though, the opening feels overly weighted towards the new album. Whilst ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ is pleasant and the refrain of leading single ‘New York Morning’ is eagerly parroted, the first half seems little more than a shameless plug by the Manchester boys. As Garvey quizzes the crowd and tries his hand at matchmaking, the excitement is first caught between songs rather than in them. The mood then drops as the band dedicate ‘The Night Will Always Win’ to a recently deceased friend, and the ensuing hush unveils the most beautiful delivery of the night.
Momentum noticeably builds as the set progresses. Guitar-heavy ‘Grounds for Divorce’ forms easily the most rousing moment, as tribal drums trigger a frenzy in which dentures are lost and catheters shattered. An encore of ‘Starlings’ sees a heartfelt and modest monologue from Garvey peppered with punchy brass, growing into an eagerly anticipated climax of ‘One Day Like This’. Despite a slow start, this finale sees Elbow at their finest. As the string quartet beautifully supports a roaring reprise of “throw those curtains wide…” the only concern is how delayed this triumph is. Besides, who said your dad’s record collection is such a bad listen?