Elbow + Matt Corby – The Palace Theatre, Melbourne (27/07/2011)

Matt Corby was the local support act tonight, tasked with opening the show at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre. Although the mostly 30 plus crowd, a strong contingent of whom seemed to be from Britain, largely didn’t know who the 20 year old singer was, there were murmurs of approval to be heard amongst the throng of the sold out venue.

The Sydney songwriter has an incredible voice, both strong and fragile, which enables him to relay emotion and drama in a way which recalls Jeff Buckley, who must certainly be an influence on Corby’s folk-blues style. Along with his band, comprised of bass and drums (the drummer was incredible by the way, almost stole the show), the one-time Australian Idol finalist held his own throughout, before politely bidding us goodnight.

As the lights dimmed and some soft introductory music crept through the PA system, Pete Turner, Richard Jupp, Craig and Mark Potter and the inimitable Guy Garvey, collectively known as Elbow, sauntered onstage to rapturous applause.

As the band members took their places Garvey stood at the edge of the stage, grinning and waving to the calls of “love you Guy!”, before kicking off with “The Birds”, the opener of their latest album Build a Rocket Boys! While on that album “The Birds”, in keeping with the feel of the rest of the record, is a restrained and pretty piece, tonight it positively throbbed to its own beat, Mark Potter’s guitar work effortlessly building the dynamics until, Garvey’s arms outstretched, they finally launched into a massive chorus. I turned to my plus one and mouthed the word “wow”; it was obvious that Elbow’s reputation as being one of the great current live British bands is well deserved; this was Elbow at full force.

With barely a pause, the Mancunian quintet launched into “The Bones of You”, “Mirrorball” and “Grounds for Divorce” from the album that raised them to the upper echelons of pop music, 2009’s The Seldom Seen Kid.

The band are in Australia for Splendour in the Grass and are also fresh from playing the European summer festivals, consequently tonight’s performance resembled something of a crowd pleasing festival set, placing the emphasis on momentum, crowd participation and en mass sing-a-longs. It was particular notable that in order to maintain the excitement and high energy with which they began, the majority of material performed was from The Seldom Seen Kid rather than their current album, the much more subtle and downbeat Build a Rocket Boys!

2011 also marks the 20th anniversary of Elbow’s formation, and ten years since their debut LP, experience which is evident in their thoughtful songwriting, confident stage manner and powerful arrangements. The band were joined for the majority of their set by two violinists, but even without their inclusion the sound was impressively epic, each part careful constructed to do justice to the ambitious nature of the material.

Elbow are clearly the type of band who inspire an emotional attachment amongst their loyal fanbase, audience members up the front were constantly leaning over the barricade to touch hands with Garvey, whilst above their heads others were leaning over the balconies, singing the words as if they had been written especially for tonight, the singer’s grin being mirrored by 1800 faces. Ever the charismatic frontman, Garvey knows his role well, which is almost as the antithesis of the snarling Gallagher-style rock star, his job was to ensure enjoyment and involvement from all present, demanding our hands were raised almost as much as our voices were.

Highlights included “Station Approach” from 2005’s Leader’s of the Free World, “Open Arms” and “Lippy Kids” from Build a Rocket, “The Birds”, “Grounds for Divorce” and arguably their biggest hit, and the song they closed the show with, “One Day Like This”, the feel good anthem from The Seldom Seen Kid.

Simply put it was an effortlessly perfect performance from one of the modern powerhouses of popular song, sounding every bit at the top of their game. We shuffled out to the street, ears and minds satisfied and throats sore from singing that final refrain “one day like this a year would see me right”. Too bloody right.

Originally published on The AU Review on 27/07/2011. View original article.

Photographs by Anna Palmer. View photo gallery.

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