Originally formed in Manchester, England in 1990, Elbow’s swirling, moody, and unmistakably British brand of ethereal rock is as cerebral as it is beautiful. An admitted musical snob who critiques and analyzes every note as it enters my ears, I have been hooked on this band since first hearing their debut full-length major label release back in 2001, entitled “Asleep In The Back”. This band’s music has pulled me to soaring new heights of unending, thought provoking, emotional dream-scapes that few others have. The kind of music you want to casually drive home listening to with only the night sky as your passenger. The kind of music that envelops your body, and your mind, in a warm, complete cloak.
With 6 other studio albums, and one B-side compilation, with their most recent release titled “Little Fictions” released in February of this year, Elbow continues to reinvent themselves and solidify their position as my undisputed favorite band.
A few weeks ago I was asked to start contributing to this magazine and of course, I said yes without hesitation. The only issue was to figure out what my first contribution would be. Then, a few days later on November 2, 2017, I went and saw Elbow live at Terminal 5 in Manhattan; and as the music took over that night before our eyes, my first article began to take shape.
The band took the stage to the thunderous appreciation of the crowd’s acknowledgement, with all of us fully aware of the beautiful journey we were about to embark on together. Singer Guy Garvey stepped into the spotlight donning his familiar black button down shirt with his sleeves rolled up and darkly colored jeans. A Burly man who’s kind, smiling face was draped in its ever-present brown scruffy beard. He greeted the crowd and waved with seemingly as much excitement as the rest of us had to begin the show. If you’ve ever seen Elbow before there is always one constant, the fact that this band never fails to present their music with the same amount of joy and gratitude every single time. It’s as if they are always playing their very first concert in a room filled with 5,000 of their closest friends, every time. As you watch them throughout the night you would swear that Garvey makes direct eye contact with every single person in the room at least once, including yourself.
As much as they may draw comparisons to fellow countryman Radiohead and Coldplay, there is no comparison in the eyes of your narrator. Nothing against Radiohead or Coldplay, but Elbow never seems to need the flash, nor the pomp and circumstance, either of those bands tend to bring along. It is the stunning simplicity, sincerity, and beauty of their music which sets them apart, not only from the two aforementioned bands, but from every other band. Garvey commands a room like few other front-men have and addresses the crowd with a level of respect that few others can. Often including the crowd as backup vocalists to the point where he relies on their voices to begin some songs, and carry others. The crowd never fails to graciously accept his offer, and just like that, we are all joined in song.
Their latest album, Little Fictions, explores a sense of rhythm not displayed on earlier recordings, but with the same level of melody which is ever present. They don’t overpower you with musicianship or thunderous percussion, instead you will find that most of the time they seem to simply sprinkle in the perfect amount of instrumentation while allowing Garvey’s soothing, and sometimes heartbreaking vocals and poetry to guide the way.
No matter what your usual musical tastes may be, I implore you to give this band a listen. In a world which seems to artistically provide less and less honesty and emotion, Elbow’s versatile style offers a little something for even the most discriminating musical palette. Happy listening. Your friend – Vinny P.