With the Australian dollar flying high, it should come as no surprise that international bands – particularly British ones – are mining the gig market in Australia spectacularly.
That’s no bad thing for local fans, and back in Australia only 9 months after they were last here for Splendour In The Grass, the Mancunian purveyors of lush sounds and snappy lyrics – Elbow – filled Festival Hall.
It’s a strange choice of venue for Elbow, typically more suited to the louder, faster, sweatier offerings, but after a great opening set from Londoners Bombay Bicycle Club, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey set about convincing the crowd to eat from the palms of his spirit-fingered hands.
Constantly building opener The Birds kicks off proceedings, as it did last year. Garvey covers every corner of the stage willing the distant crowds on the left and right of the venue to come along for the ride.
It’s this distance that at times does prove a barrier to Garvey, a man whose connection with the crowd is integral to the Elbow set. His engagement with those down the front is unquestionable, but there’s little doubt that the Palace last year was a better choice of venue for the band.
Bones provides a more upbeat vibe, but Elbow are never a band that are going to have those on the floor slamming into each other. It’s all about the layered music, the lyrics, and a charismatic frontman, something borne out by the next song – the sparkling Mirrorball – getting such a great reaction.
The strongest part of the set follows: Neat Little Rows, the brilliant Grounds For Divorce and the melancholic Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver. It is however an identical opening set to that delivered less than 12 months ago, indeed it’s not until the 7th tune of the night - The Night Will Always Win – that the set starts to differ at all.
Garvey himself however is not predictable. Never the frontman to recycle jokes or local-favour-chasing interplay, he manages to get large parts of the floor crowd involved throughout the night.
Retreating the piano manned by producer and keyboardist Craig Potter, Garvey leads the rest of the band – bassist Pete Turner, guitarist Mark Potter and drummer Richard Jupp – in a singalong of Weather To Fly after their customary mid-set drink. The band then break and reprise the song as a full band in its recorded form. It’s a spine tingling delivery of a tune that meanders its way through the crowd.
After the obligatory break, the band return, closing out as they did in 2011 with Starlings, Station Approach and the song that now defines them globally, One Day Like This. Putting aside the poor choice of venue and setlist repetition is not a difficult task.
On stage, Garvey is impossible to dislike. Musically, Elbow are impossible to fault.
Note: Photos taken from the crowd with a point and shoot. Nothing spectacular here…
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