Elbow + Jesca Hoop @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall – 15th October 2008

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It’s been a long time coming for Elbow but it seems their moment has finally arrived. With their fourth album, “The Seldom Seen Kid”, scooping this year’s much-respected Mercury Prize they now embark on their most successful tour and tonight, in Wolverhampton, they prove beyond any doubt that they’re worthy of the acclaim.

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First up though is support act, Jesca Hoop, who struggles to really capture the crowd’s attention, despite a fine vocal performance and a helping hand from Elbow’s Guy Garvey. Having previously toured with the likes of Paolo Nutini and The Polyphonic Spree, Hoop’s music is quirky, yet sweet and instantly likeable. The melodic vocal arrangements hint at her church upbringing and, on stage, she seems confident and engaging. Tonight she plays without her usual backing musicians and seems to have the respect of the first few rows. Further back, however, her music is almost drowned out by the chattering of less interested sections of the crowd which is frustrating for those of us who actually enjoy what we can hear. Hopefully she’ll be back to play her own shows in the near future.

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A sold out Civic Hall can be an uncomfortable place to try and watch a band if you’re under 6 foot tall! Tonight, 3000 people fill every inch of the venue and some people simply give up trying to get a good view of the stage and instead make do just to listen. Luckily for them Elbow’s performance tonight sounds incredible. With much of their music being fairly mellow, you’d be forgiven for expecting them to be somewhat reserved in a live setting. You’d be wrong in that assumption. Songs take on added presence and energy when performed live and the emotion of songs like “Newborn” and the uplifting “On A Day Like This” have the crowd completely enraptured.

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Guy Garvey makes for a great frontman – charming and down-to-earth – and his vocals are soulful and honest, soaring above the soundscapes built by his bandmates. He dedicates songs to uncles and couples in the audience and encourages singalongs and crowd participation throughout their set. As he straps on an acoustic guitar and sits down, the crowd begin to sing the words to “Newborn”. The band quickly claim the song back and deliver a stunning rendition, showing why they’ve become one of the most accomplished bands around.

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A round of shots is delivered to the band members as they gather together under a single spotlight for an acoustic jam through “Weather To Fly”. The track then builds as other instruments are introduced before the band pick things up with crowd favourite “Forget Myself”.

Garvey encourages everyone to forego the usual tradition of cheering for the band to return for an encore and instead asks them to join together in singing a song selected by a member of the audience. After several suggestions, it is agreed that tonight’s song will be “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting” and, after a magnificent version of “On A Day Like This” the audience manages to belt out a rough version of the chorus before Elbow return for a 3-song encore of “Some Riot”, “Station Approach” and a beautiful finale of “Scattered Black & Whites”.

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After 17 years together and four critically acclaimed studio albums, Elbow’s star continues to shine brighter every year. Tonight, 3000 people leave having witnessed a performance to remember. Superb.

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Set List

Starlings
The Bones Of You
Leaders Of The Free World
Mirrorball
The Stops
Grounds For Divorce
Mexican Standoff
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Newborn
Weather To Fly
Forget Myself
On A Day Like This
__________________
Some Riot
Staton Approach
Scattered Black & Whites

Review & Photos – Steve Gerrard

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