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It didn’t take much effort for Elbow to impress the Non-COMM crowd on opening night. Front man Guy Garvey took center stage with only a mic and announced the band would be playing stripped down acoustic versions of their songs tonight. His haunting vocals echoed across the entire room as the band played mesmerizing guitar riffs and piano chords. When they played “Real Life (Angel)” it made you feel like you could drift off into another place and totally forget your surroundings, like an adult version of a lullaby. Elbow’s music is timeless, and I hope they keep making music for another twenty years. Their latest album The Take Off and Landing of Everything is out now and the band will perform on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this Friday, May 14.
If Elbow’s goal is to take over the United States and blow out whatever competition they might get from Coldplay, to whom they’re often compared, then they still have a ways to go. They are, however, taking mighty and affirming strides.
Taking any memory of their stale and poorly-received set at 2011’s POPPED! Festival – the last time the Manchester five-piece played in Philadelphia – and throwing into the fire, Elbow rewrote their legacy at last night’s near-sold-out show at the Electric Factory. In between perfectly-executed songs spanning their six-album career (including most of 2014’s acclaimed The Takeoff and Landing of Everything, lead singer Guy Garvey played troubadour and master-of-ceremonies to the hilt. Throughout the set, he cracked jokes at his bandmates’ expense, singled out audience members, celebrated one couple’s recent marriage, and taunted the crowd with allegations of poor sing-along volume (“Washington was pretty good…I think Boston was the best one so far”). During those songs, he was a grandiose pied piper, raising his hand to the audience with every acrobatic vocal run and compelling ongoing attention from a rapt audience. If this gig was any indication, they’re on a course for even greater success.
Joining them was American-born, Iceland-based singer-songwriter John Grant, who rivaled Elbow for heart-on-sleeve intensity and cheeky self-deprecation . Check out a gallery of photos from the show below.
British musical exports tend not to make the same impressions as American ones. For as long as the cross-Atlantic musical conversation has involved mutual influence and spawned massive crossover successes (Radiohead, Coldplay, The Strokes, the Dandy Warhols, etc.), there have been artists on both sides whose fame has been largely confined to one side or another.
Elbow (sometimes stylized “elbow”) have spent much of their seventeen-year career in the same category as acts like Kate Bush and the Stone Roses – critically acclaimed on both sides of the pond, but only truly popular in the UK. Chalk it up to whatever you want – the thick Manchester accents, the sometimes-twee references to localities that escape even the staunchest Anglophiles – but they never quite hit here. Their last Philly gig, at 2011’s POPPED! Festival, was met mainly with stares and boredom by an audience rabidly awaiting Cage the Elephant.
Now, this epically-oriented quintet looks to be reversing their fortunes with this year’s The Takeoff and Landing of Everything (Fiction/Concord). Released in mid-March and immediately entering #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart, the band’s sixth full-length album marks their evolution from prog-inspired alt-rockers (in the vein of contemporaries and supporters like Radiohead and Coldplay) to anthem-churning arena act. The album’s lead-off single, “New York Morning”, illuminates their capacity for shimmering beauty on a broad scale (as well as its applicability for an increasingly-rabid American market). With tonight’s gig at the Electric Factory (one of the few stops on their North American tour to still not sell out), they just might prove themselves capable of finally bridging the cross-pond gap.
The new album from British rockers elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything – touches down next Tuesday, March 11th. Since 1992, the band – including Guy Garvey on vocals, guitarist Mark Potter, bassist Pete Turner, Craig Potter on keyboards, and drummer Richard Jupp – have made consistently creative, sweepingly cinematic, moody and challenging music.
Writing for NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation about the song, Carmel Holt says:
Hundreds of songs have been written about New York City, and yet it’s impossible to tire of new songs about it, especially one with a chorus that so perfectly sums up the city’s simultaneous noise, brilliance, heartbreak and promise. Elbow frontman Guy Garvey delivers the song’s sad-yet-hopeful perspective, informed by his recent time living in Brooklyn and inspired by the refuge John Lennon and Yoko Ono found in Manhattan.
Below, via NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation, download “New York Morning.”
Elbow play Electric Factory on Tuesday, May 13th with special guest John Grant.
Friday, September 23rd
Cage The Elephant
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Company of Thieves
Saturday, September 24th
Foster The People
The Budos Band
Mates Of State
Black Thought & J. Period Mixtape
A limited number of Early Bird two-day passes ($90) and Early Bird two-day VIP passes ($175) are on sale now through Thursday, June 23rd, at 10 p.m. Use the code: POPPED (for two-day passes) and code: VIPPOPPED (for two-day VIP passes) at the Popped! wesbite or at Ticketmaster. VIP passes include a special viewing area near the stage, a separate entrance, bar/food/restroom areas. Regular price two-day passes ($110) and two-day VIP passes ($200) go on sale this Friday, June 24th, at 10 a.m. at the Popped! website and Ticketmaster. Charge by phone at 800-745-8000, or the Electric Factory Box Office located at 421 N. 7th Street. (No service fees for cash purchases!)