We’ve arrived at the Marquee and there’s only a handful of people stage side. The lead singer of the support band is timidly introducing their second song. The tracks are surprising, never really revealing themselves immediately; changing form – from slow melodic introductions, interlaced with dream-pop vibes – into grunge-rock crescendos.
As the set continues, the crowd fills out considerably and the front-woman becomes more self-assured, more brazen and as we hear the opening notes of ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’ the penny drops. This is Jealous of the Birds (Naomi Hamilton’s musical outlet); Nialler9 included this track on his New Irish Music playlist on Spotify a couple of months before tonight. Hamilton’s final three songs are a fantastic showcase of musical talent and charisma. It’s charming to counter that persona while performing with the softly-spoken Armagh lilt between songs.
It’s about 45 minutes before Elbow appear. They open with ‘Any Day Now’, the kick-drum pounding in our chests as they create that beautiful symmetry with three part harmonies. Garvey’s voice is a powerhouse that reaches the back of the tent with ease. ‘The Bones of You’ and ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ get huge reactions from the audience early, particularly the line, “I still want a bottle of good Irish whiskey”.
Guy is a cheeky, charming character and is up to his usual divilment in between songs. Conducting the audience with his boozy vocal runs, there’s plenty of back and forth “whoa-ohs”; despite the cheesy dad jokes the fact remains, Garvey is a genuinely charming, somewhat ordinary bloke who just has a phenomenal voice.
Elbow possess an innate ability to write lyrics about very unremarkable situations and transform them into something so unique and heartfelt. The first real tender moment of the night comes with ‘Head for Supplies’ a beautiful track from the new album; as he sings, it’s clear that there’s seldom places more comfortable than on stage with a mic in hand for the Mancunian frontman. As the night continues, Garvey dedicates a song to the victims of the terror attacks in Manchester.
The likes of ‘Mirrorball’ and ‘The Birds’ make appearances but the standout of the night for us comes as Garvey introduces ‘Switching Off’; ‘we were talking about your life flashing before your eyes as you die, and the idea that if you can choose your final words then imagine being able to choose your final thought. This song is about choosing your final thought as your life flashes, and remembering these moments with all of you…’
Those soaring ballads with Garvey compelling the audience to raise their hands and join as a backing choir is the pinnacle of live music. ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, ‘My Sad Captains’ and the song that paid five mortgages ‘One Day Like This’ all result in a chorus of Corkonians chanting the lyrics back to the band as they mute their instruments to listen.
Having left on a high, the crowd won’t have it and demand more the only way they know how – a deafening ‘Olé, Olé’ that coerces Elbow to return, whiskey in hand. “Ye’r the best fucking crowd in the word, I tell you. Will you sing with us one more time, Cork?” ‘Lippy Kids’ lulls the audience back down to a state of calm, whistling the refrain as Garvey soothes their woes before breaking into the lumbering behemoth that brought them into the public eye, ‘Grounds for Divorce’.