Somewhat late to the game, I’ve been a fan of Elbow since reading and hearing rave reviews from Colly and Messrs Oxton and Hicks. Leaders of the Free World is indeed one the finest songs to be released this side of the Millennium – musically and lyrically it just hits the spot on so many levels.
This was my first time seeing Elbow live and it was one of those gigs you just didn’t want to end. It’s great watching a band who seem to be thoroughly enjoying performing live and in front of an audience. Guy Garvey personifies that with charming between-song banter, engaging nicely with fans, but more importantly by having an utterly amazing voice. Not since Super Furry’s Gruff Rhys have I heard vocals sound that good – even better live than on record.
One of the many reasons Elbow are so engaging live is that their music is so damn good. Their four albums is a brilliant body of work; not just good original tunes, but soundscapes that are really interesting musically. Not many bands you listen to will line up three songs in a row, each with a different time signature, without deliberately showing off. And those songs will actually be about something: intense jealousy (Mexican Standoff), ambition, frustration and heavy construction machinery (The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver), and the War in Iraq (Leaders of the Free World).
To round off the gig, Garvey encouraged everyone to sing a song instead of cheering them back on. And so a thousand or so people ended up singing My Old Man’s a Dustman, leading into an encore of Some Riot and Station Approach, which wouldn’t surprise if it was an Elbow witticism aimed at the Roundhouse’s previous status as a steam engine repair shed. Time to tune into Garvey’s 6 Music radio show.