Elbow, Fox Theater, November 13, 2017I have no idea how the music industry works anymore -- how bands break through or even how they decide when and where to tour and which cities will be the hot ticket. In fact, the original plan to see Elbow in Washington, DC, fell through partly because the gig sold out almost immediately (also: employment instability on my part). Once upon a time, Elbow didn't come to the United States much, but now it seems like they've hit a three-year cycle of tours. Hey, I'm not complaining; I'm glad to see them gaining fans along the way. Oddly, Elbow's show happened to coincide with Liam Gallagher playing San Francisco on his first solo tour of the States. I can only imagine the dilemma that dedicated Mancophiles (?) had to face as they chose between Our Kid and Our Other Kid. I stand by my decision wholeheartedly.
I'm completely removed from the UK music scene these days, so I don't know what size crowds Elbow plays to back in England, but a venue like the Fox seems to be a good fit for them over here. Back in the days when I saw them at Bimbo's (though minus the Independent gig I missed because the show sold out before I could buy a ticket), they clearly needed a bigger stage, not only because of the size of their band, but also the size of their sound and ambitions. The Fox gives them exactly that, and this time, they filled the room all the way up to the balcony pretty well.
I've read the prog-rock labels applied to Elbow, but I simply don't care. They've always been a band of sweeping sounds, strong emotions, and evocative lyrics, anchored by a charismatic singer. You might be surprised by the rarity of the combination when you listen to as much indie rock as I do. Anyway, that formula hasn't diminished on this go-around, and in fact, the addition of two new female violinists/backup singers further upped the musical bonafides.
Speaking of indie bands, I spent much of my formative years as a concert-goer watching bands who barely acknowledged the audience, much less themselves. We're talking shoegazers, by genre and by self-indentification. To this day, I feel a bit self-conscious when the rock ritual begins, whether it's a call and response or waving arms or whatever. Mind you, I do it too, but a part of me notes the silliness and the mob mentality (before I decide to do it anyway).
Elbow has a lot of this. Guy Garvey urges you to wave your arms often, and sometimes we clap (which I actually love), and I'd probably whistle along to "Lippy Kids" if I could carry more than two notes in a huff. It's an observation of behavior I don't indulge in a ton at the shows I typically attend.
Another funny thing about this show: Guy urged us to sing along for a few tunes. In fact, it became a running joke as he implored more than once, "If you know the words, sing along. If you don't know the words, sing along." But one of his chosen tracks, "My Sad Captains," was incredibly wordy! It took at least three swings through the chorus before most of the crowd (or maybe just me) could reasonably fake our way through it. Fortunately, we took up the slack with beloved tunes like "The Birds" and "One Day Like This."
By my calculations, Elbow will be back in 2020. If we're still here, I look forward to the next round of waving, clapping, and singing along.
» give us G&T and sympathy
» one day like this a year
» throw those curtains wide