wed 14/04/2021

Elbow, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Elbow, O2 Arena

Elbow, O2 Arena

Big arena-filling anthems from the cynicism-shattering Bury band

Is Guy Garvey really as lovely as he seems? I hope so. Last night, on the first of two nights for the Bury band at the O2 Arena, their lead singer, this big bearded bear of a man, came across as clever, funny, confident, warm, positive and inspirational. He can sing a bit, too, possessing a voice of uncommon sweetness and purity and unerring accuracy, slipping effortlessly into falsetto and back when required. Really, unless you happen to be the kind of person who likes to swim through seas of cynicism, what’s not to like?

And blowing away cynicism was what this gig was all about: shamelessly, cheesily (arm waving? Tick. Singing along? Tick. Giant mirrrorball? Tick), this was an exercise in making 18,000 people feel better about themselves, about each other and about the world, using big bold and anthemic songs allied with sparkling spectacle to lift the spirits and banish the demons. Nor was this some kind of Panglossian la-la land; Elbow make music that’s rooted in real lived experience (something that’s inevitably accentuated by the northern-ness of Garvey’s delivery, sung as well as spoken), reflecting individual traumas and collective tribulations. But what shines through, always, is the big beating heart of this five-piece band.

They’ve played big festivals before, but to my knowledge they’ve never performed in a place the size of the O2, and yet Garvey was entirely undaunted, chatting garrulously, completely at ease. There was nothing here of the frenetic desperate nerviness of other great live bands such as Arcade Fire: the occasion was dignified by a sense of calmness, almost serenity, that was reflected in the rapt attentiveness of the crowd. Garvey was even unfazed when a pair of knickers landed next to him. “That’s never happened before,” he said, “in 20 years!” before calmly tucking them into his suit-jacket pocket.

Elbow’s set of nearly two hours was paced with the confidence of a band who have been together for 20 years, who know how to lay a long, slow-burning fuse, beginning with “The Birds” (from the new album, Build a Rocket Boys!), moving on through the stately big-beat waltz of “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver” and culminating in the glorious explosion of joy that is “One Day Like This”. A smaller satellite stage gave Garvey (and for a while the rest of the band) a place to roam and pace, a station from which to survey the audience, while lights and screens added sparkle and colour.

elbowAlso, mention should be made of the sound system: I don’t know how it was from elsewhere in the arena, but from where I was sitting it was impeccable. I have seen countless gigs in which string sections were employed for what can only have been decorative effect, given that their sawings were almost always entirely inaudible, but here the four string players were strong and, well, stringy. And the rest was marvellously clear, too, from the deep rumble of the bass on “Station Approach” to the gently plucked acoustic guitar on “Weather to Fly”.

So, nothing to complain about? Well, in arena gigs the crowd have an important part to play in creating an atmosphere and trying to lift the lid, and here I think they shirked their responsibilities somewhat, being a bit on the passive side. But that’s all. And if I’ve given the impression that this was just the Guy Garvey show, this certainly wasn’t the case: the other four members of the band (pictured above) played their parts brilliantly, too: Elbow’s music is at times quite tricky and multilayered but they never missed a beat. It’s just that Garvey, the force of his personality, the bigness of his heart, is so compellingly watchable.


So true, Elbow were BEAUTIFUL last night, the gorgeous northern beardy teddy bear that is Guy Garvey was on top form, as were the rest of the band I hasten to add. They made us chuckle, bellow along and at times shed a tear or two (maybe that was just me but Some Riot always does it for me!). And as much as I dislike the o2 as a venue, I would, and could only go there for Elbow, because no matter the size of the venue, they always make you feel like they're talking directly at you, singing just for you. Just hope Momma Garvey (whose son proclaimed her in the audience last night) had as good as time as I did. Hard to see why she wouldn't have.....

Spot-on review. Guy Garvey and the band made it seem like an intimate setting, not a cavernous arena. I also agree that the crowd didn't play their part - my friend and I were the only ones dancing in our block! Why go to see a band as awesome as Elbow if you're just going to sit passively and not give back the warmth that was coming from the stage? A small niggle in an otherwise wonderful night. My first experience of Elbow live but I certainly hope it won't be the last.

I thought Elbow were every inch the premier British band at the moment. Garvey is an instantly likeable person, the kind of person you want to be your friend. I had slight concern about whether they could pull off the o2 but came away thinking they are suited to large arenas. The brilliant 'Lippy Kids' was delivered with such intimacy that I could have been sitting in my living rather than a 20,000+ arena. As for the crowd, I thought they were actually pretty excellent. I was right by the head of the satellite stage and the crowd was fully respondant to Garvey and totally captivated during the slower numbers. I promise you, it was so mesmerising, you could hear the hum of the of amps - but this was no bad thing. Last night was the third time I have seen Elbow (previously at Wembley and at Paradiso in Amsterdam in 2007) and they just get better and better. I have not been to a gig which brought out so many emotions. For those who are going again tonight, enjoy.

We were blown away by the magic of Elbow last night - if anything they seem to get better and better and some of the songs brought goosebumps to my arms. Such things of beauty should be celebrate and shared with the world! Well done to Mr Garvey and the boys... oh, and can I have my undies back ;)

It was a captivating gig and we were all entranced. I didn't want to dance - it was mesmeric. Absolutely right about the sound system - we were at the back. The piece where he acknowledged the people furthest from the stage was lovely too and he knew the block number and seat row.

Guy Garvey is the "Ray Winstone" of the music world. He and the other band members had the audience captivated from the opening song to the last note. "It must be love…" The set was intimate and spine-chilling at times for such a big venue. No mean feat.

Absolutely accurate I was a wee bit concerned that the O2 would be too big but clearly it was not a problem. What comes across is the sheer genuineness of both the songs and the performers. Truly great gig and one which will stick in the memory

I have to say it was a slightly embarrassing crowd as far as I'm concerned last night. From where I stood it seemed that the crowd ranged from middle-aged gawkers (I am middle-aged but I still move (in places)), crazy kate-bush-style dancing parents, to tongue-swallowing couples. Then there were the seated mass that until One Day Like This didn't appear real - all making for quite a quite audience considering there were 18,000 of us in there. Elbow were incredible, impeccable, charming, and totally at ease in the O2

"the string players were stringy"... FFS. Fucking awful writing.

I was at the O2 last night to see Elbow and I have to agree with Brian. Elbow are not the type of band that are going to have you up, jigging about from the first song. Their music is meant to be listened to first and foremost. I thought it was one of the best concerts I have been to BECAUSE of the atmosphere. It was intimate and the crowd listened intently to the quieter numbers and rocked along to the anthems like 'Grounds for Divorce' and 'One Day Like This'. I for one was blown away by the beauty of the music (and I have all their albums) and the quality of the sound. The personality of Guy Garvie shone through and his voice was imperious. His connection with the audience was like that of a small, cosy arena. But there were 18,000 of us and he had every one of us all in the palm of his hand.

We were at the back of the standing area when, during One Day Like This, Guy points the mic at the crowd to sing the second verse. A guy shouts out "keep singing Guy, we only know the chorus!"

What other band can you see making cocktails on stage while still being awe inspiringly entertaining??

I agree that London audiences tend to be on the less demonstrative side of the spectrum. However, all the people who post gig reviews saying "I was the only one who was standing/dancing etc" need to recognise the type of music (not much of Elbow's set is up tempo) and the audience (not many under their early 30s) and consider whether this is conducive to mass standing for an entire concert, especially when you are in the upper tier of an enormo-dome and have spent a small fortune on a ticket (I admit though that Elbow's were a lot cheaper than most of the big names these days so all credit to them and their promoters). If it doesn't move you to get up and bop then why should you? If you want to be surrounded by dancers - go to a club. Visual spectacle aside, a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that we are going to 'hear' music, the phrase 'I saw Band X' suggests that the intrinsic quality and performance of the music doesn't feature on people's radar. I'll stop now before I disappear up my...

I was almost beginning to think I was one of the remaining few who went to gigs to "hear" the music not just to say I was there. In fact, I frequently go to see bands with an open mind knowing virtually nothing about them apart from maybe one song, so it is highly unlikely I would be joining in with a singalong. Having said that, Guy Garvey obviously wants the audience to have an enjoyable and memorable evening and he succeeded there. He was certainly able to get audience participation when he referred to the people sitting in Block 412 "furthest away from the stage" to which they received spotlight and applause. I honestly thought Elbow would be lost in a venue the size of the 02 but I was very much mistaken. (Incidentally I do know more than one song of theirs!). The lights, the music and the charisma was very much evident. If you remember the commercial for porridge where the kids have a warm glow round them - well that's how I am still feeling after that memorable concert.

I saw Elbow in Nottingham, earlier in the tour. They were excellent there too and it was one of my favourite gigs. I loved the clever staging - the chandelier and the gilt edged video screens before hand and, yes, Guy Garvey is a brilliant front man who was completely in charge of the arena. The sound was excellent and even songs I didn't know, I enjoyed. You get the feeling that since 'Seldom Seen Kid' Elbow have had more money to play with but they haven't lost their taste and are obviously working with great people.

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