Elbow - Asleep In The Back and Anson Rooms, 6/10/1

Originally posted to alt.music.marillion:

Well, a couple of people have asked recently about Elbow and their excellent album Asleep In The Back. As I've been one of the main evangelists and saw them in Bristol last night, here are my comments.

Elbow, from Manchester, have been playing together for a decade, and it shows. Reminiscent of post-84 Talk Talk in many places, but including diverse other influences and creating an overall flavour all their own, Guy Garvey and troops tell tales of city life from the ugly to the sublime, in a wistful, sometimes romantic, sometimes cutting manner.

They can transform their approach from the most heart-rending ballad I've heard this year (Powder Blue), an eloquent reflection on co-dependancy on society's edge, to a study of meat market clubbing, Bitten By The Tailfly, which owes its driving guitar to their Mancunian friends from Warsaw (that'll be Joy Division to the uninitiated).

If you like rich atmospheres, you'll love Elbow, no more so than on the single New Born, a song of fresh love that soars from semi-acoustic beginnings to a second section featuring a mellotron and guitar driven symphonic crescendo with true power and zero bombast. Very much a mood piece album that nevertheless exhibits an overall consistency unmatched by many a competitor.

Curious to see how they would come across live, the show opens with a roving camera, walking towards the venue from about half a mile away, over the recorded strains of Vum Garda, eventually ending up in the venue itself. From the opening strains of Any Day Now, it's obvious they know their stuff and that the audience have come to appreciate, admire and applaud. Listening to the album you wonder how they'll manage to convey the quieter pieces such as Coming Second and Scattered Black and Whites; both are stunning, the latter even working as the last encore track.

We're not talking hushed reverence here - there's some real connection between the band, particularly wistful frontman Guy Garvey, and the 500-strong crowd between songs, including banter with the 'one man who's discovered how to dance to our music', the bloke who can hardly stand at the front, the chap who stole the shakers in Birmingham and the guitar tech whose name I don't catch well enough to be able to shout it out, as instructed, whenever she comes on between songs.

I'm uncertain whether they'll be able to represent the full dynamic and majesty of New Born. They succeed admirably. Can they switch gears from Powder Blue into Bitten by the Tailfly? You bet they can - it makes the recorded version sound positively limp, which is some achievement. Most breathtaking are the quieter, more melancholy, understated tracks which gel perfectly. It takes quite some skill to reproduce all these things live and the band take it in their stride.

In short - Elbow, thoroughly recommended.