An Elbow gig in Manchester is typically a special occasion, and Saturday’s homecoming-of-sorts at Cheshire’s Jodrell Bank is no different, summoning the warm, enveloping atmosphere that’s become their trademark.
Despite driving rain from the first song to the last, ninety minutes plucked from four of the band’s five albums make for a set to placate old fans and newcomers alike.
In usual Elbow fashion, tonight throws up few surprises. Ever reliably, momentum see-saws between the slow burn of 'Station Approach' and 'Lippy Kids' and the band’s more immediate offerings, like the chest-beating pairing of 'Leaders of the Free World' and 'Grounds for Divorce', while Guy Garvey’s friendly patter fills the occasional brief lull.
Yet where a level of safe predictability would prove dull from any other act, Elbow’s brand of easy, genuine amiability doesn’t warrant the tricks and turns of the arena-filling acts they now sit alongside. Rather, it’s the fact that the band’s live show never stumbles into the territory of style-over-substance that proves their most impressive asset; even when the band use the facility’s Lovell Telescope as a makeshift screen for projections of space, their beloved Manchester and members of tonight’s crowd, it adds to rather than detracts (or distracts) from the main event.
- Date: Saturday 23rd June 2012
- Event: Elbow Live From Jodrell Bank at Jodrell Bank Observatory
- Venue: Jodrell Bank Observatory
- Artists: Elbow
For an event of this scale, it’s remarkable how many of the set’s highlights come from Elbow’s more subdued tracks; 'The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver' is as majestic and subtle as ever, while a hushed rendition of 'The Night Will Always Win' from atop a crowd-splitting walkway recalls the stripped-down versions of 'Weather to Fly' which formed such a memorable part of their The Seldom Seen Kid dates. Even with the predictable firework finale of 'One Day Like This' threatening to cast a shadow over the set that precedes it, as if everything tonight has built to this solitary climax, there are enough delicate and graceful moments to balance out such straightforward crowd pleasers.
Leaving Jodrell Bank isn’t easy; a day of light rain, followed by two hours of heavy (perfectly synchronised with the entire duration of tonight’s headliners) has left wellies and boots helplessly clung by the mud.
Even after five albums and a now long overdue, but still sudden, rush towards mainstream success, there remains constant a gritty, mucky Northern undercurrent to every aspect of Elbow. Few bands would command the attention and adoration of as many in conditions as dire as these, and still turn the sodden experience into one that feels like baptism; it’s a flippant and uncommitted fan that leaves an Elbow gig early on account of rain, especially when Garvey’s repeated ‘We don’t care!’ resounds through Jodrell Bank’s crowd at regular intervals.
Any Elbow gig is impressive but tonight, under the gloomy sky and surrounded by the equally sunny people of a hometown so influential to their songwriting, it feels particularly special. As Garvey himself sings during a resounding ‘Station Approach’ it feels like coming home, in more ways than one.
Words: Will Orchard
Photo: Bart Pettman
See upcoming festivals and buy tickets at skiddle.com/festivals
Tickets are no longer available for this event
You can find these artists/djs playing at the following events: