“We’ve been a band for twenty years,” smiles a sprightly Guy Garvey as he steps down a gangway into the midst of masses of adoring fans. “So I think they should bring back a version of Mr and Mrs but for current British bands – just because it’s another thing that we can win.”
Tongue firmly in cheek, Garvey appears truly humbled by Elbow’s reception this evening. The last time they played Nottingham was to a half-filled Rock City. Since then, they’ve won countless awards and become nothing short of a national treasure. It only seems fitting that tonight carries a certain sense of occasion – a victory lap if you will.
Kicking off with majestic opener The Birds, the gradual crescendo enraptures the audience and perfectly sums up Elbow – a delayed but beautiful and soaring ascent.
Then the sound of The Bones Of You from the earth-shiftingly successful Seldom Seen Kid is welcomed like an old friend before the gorgeous lullaby of Lippy Kids bewitches the arena in a nostalgic embrace.
From the dark and rumbling menace of Grounds For Divorce to the soul-searching tear-jerker of Great Expectations, Elbow truly showcase their eclecticism this evening. Their two hour set is as much of an emotional rollercoaster as it is a sonic odyssey.
It must be said that Garvey is probably one of the most affable showmen on the face of the earth. With a warming and relentless banter, Garvey doesn’t so much hold the audience in the palm of his hand, but more grip them in an inescapable bear hug by making the vast arena seem cosy and intimate. Surrounded by his Elbow comrades, ever the stand-up comedian he reveals the piano to be a cocktail bar and fixes the rest of the band a stiff drink before raising a glass to the audience.
Garvey stands like a butcher at wedding, suave and stately yet friendly, portly and slightly dishevelled. Shining a spotlight on the seat furthest from the stage, he dedicates a song to the most distant couple in the arena. He’ll later scale the steps to hug them in a lap of the room, high-fiving and shaking hands with his public as he goes like a drunken president.
“Are we having the time of our lives?” harps Garvey on the tender but life-affirming Weather To Fly, to a rapturous and ecstatic response from Nottingham’s masses. Take that as a yes.
As the words “one day like this a year will see me right” bellow from thousands of fans, it’s clear that there will be days like this or many more years to come. I’ll raise a glass to that.
By Andrew Trendell