Gig review: Elbow at Motorpoint Arena

Words: Kieran Lister
Photos: Tash Shipston
Saturday 18 May 2024
reading time: min, words

After an all-too-long hiatus, Guy Garvey and Elbow returned to Nottingham in possession of a formidable catalogue of epic songs. We headed to the Arena to watch the show...


As support acts go, The Waeve are about as sure a bet as you can make. Their set is a wild, endlessly engaging ride. The songs start as one thing, get beautifully messy in the middle, and come together again in a driving, swirling crescendo. Rose Elinor Dougall’s powerful voice and Blur’s Graham Coxon’s familiar vocals and intentionally scrambled guitar work shine amid the raucous noise. 

"I used to live on Brian Clough Way," Graham Coxon tells the audience. "The Derby end," he adds with a grin.

Elbow arrive perfectly on time, as you'd expect. They launch into the gnarled groove of Things I've Been Telling Myself for Years. It’s a powerful opener. Followed by the brassy, lively Lover’s Leap, they’re a wonderful expression of the refreshed direction taken on latest LP Audio Vertigo

The first song from breakout 2008 LP The Seldom Seen Kid emerges with The Bones of You, lifting the crowd with a power only a highlight from a bonafide classic album can. Its coda tonight is an extremely pretty, heartwarming snippet of jazz standard Summertime, marking the official start of the season in my opinion.

One after another, the kind of gently epic songs Elbow are loved for arrive. Mirrorball – accompanied by dazzling eponymous spheres – takes us on a beautifully romantic trip into new love. 

Fly-Boy Blue, a song written in an "airport lounge's fake Irish pub", bleeds into an unbelievably gorgeous rendition of Lunette. Garvey's vocals soar and dive here, evoking the simple joy of flight itself. And if that sounds like a clumsy, naive comparison, it’s because Elbow are the kind of band to make you believe in clumsy, naive things. 


Strong of voice and seemingly infinite in charisma, the ebullient frontman charms the crowd like an old pro

New song Balu show the band know exactly how to fill a venue like this. The seediest of basslines and propulsive drums accompany a study of a character built of "all the ill-advised men I’ve known". It’s massive, studded with brass and with a chorus built for the Arena. 

But for a short interlude, where Garvey asks sincerely what day it is (it's the end of the tour, bless him), we flow seamlessly into The Birds. It’s a neat reflection of Balu, a spiritual predecessor with its insistent big-ness and rolling bass. It ends with huge vocals, and when Guy Garvey chooses to belt out his lines at the climax of a song, you have no choice but to get chills. 

Strong of voice and seemingly infinite in charisma, the ebullient frontman charms the crowd like an old pro throughout, conducting arena-wide harmonies and cracking jokes. Elbow have been "show-stopping beauty tools" for 33 years, he says, cheekily referencing the ad hoardings. This longevity is evident in Garvey's clear love for his bandmates as much as the assuredness of their playing and the careworn warmth of his vocals. 

It’s just all so lovely, and it ends – as it has to – with One Day Like This, a song so utterly sincere in its joy of the small beauties of life that to deny it is to deny one of the great pleasures only live music can bring; a huge singalong, countless arms wrapped around shoulders and plastic pint glasses swaying. It's enough to leave you walking back into Hockley thinking, "maybe everything will be OK". There I go again, being clumsily naive. 

Elbow performed at Motorpoint Arena on 16th May 2024.


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