Monday, August 29, 2011
Elbow, Belsonic Festival, Belfast, Wednesday August 24th
The question is - how to improve a year during which you've seen both Prince and Elbow?
Given that the purple Minneapolitan has re-ascended to Planet Funk, it's unlikely we'll see him again too soon. But, just in case he's reading, he's always welcome. Loads of room, Mr.Nelson, come on in. Nice threads, by the way.
So, right now, there can only be one answer to that question -
Go see Elbow. Again.
This year's Belsonic festival saw Belfast's Custom House Square play host to Tinie Tempah, Tiesto, Plan B and Beady Eye. On Friday 19th August Primal Scream, as they have been doing all summer, asked 'just what is it that you want to do?' Oh, and Jared Leto and his band played too. They have lovely hair.
But a rainy Wednesday in August heralded the arrival of Elbow to Belfast. It was lashing down during Foy Vance's set, which could be heard from under the awning of McHugh's. Adam Hoy (who said he'd read the blog if I mentioned him - so, here you go!) reckoned he might wait until the main act came on. If I was a fan of bad puns, I would've said 'Hoy, you! Don't miss Villagers.' But I hold myself to impeccable standards. Impeccable.
Which is a word that befits Villagers. Conor O'Brien played some new tunes, which are of the same standard as the older ones. Roll on album number two.
Now, at the risk of repeating what I said in April, let me briefly take you through the Elbow show. They kicked off with The Birds and stayed airborne thereafter. Guy Garvey chose a different member of the band to name-check after every song, referring to all of them (affectionately!) as 'lovely fuckers.' He sang a Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra number, a cappella. Quite simply, he's an effortless front man - or at least, he makes it look easy.
Which, of course, it isn't. From their lyrics to their arrangements, Elbow put a lot of thought, and no small amount of heart, into what they do. They're the type of band you have to see once, and as many times more as you can manage. Carla and Barry from Bray had seen them back in March, and a few times previous. As this is written, they're en route to see Elbow in New York. Bon voyage, keep me posted!
Great Expecations and a euphoric Station Approach are aired, as well as newer material like Neat Little Rows and the quietly beautiful Lippy Kids. But it's the Seldom Seen Kid that points the way home. Elbow finish with the sublime double whammy of Starlings and One Day Like This. Ah, stop - pure magic!
What makes you stand in a square and run the risk of getting drenched? Why would you cross the Atlantic to see a band you've seen several times before?
I can only think it must be love.