Castlefield Bowl on a summer evening, since the days of D-Percussion has always been the greatest outdoor venue Manchester has to offer and the reciprocal love affair between Manchester and Elbow has been ever present for almost 20 years.
So this concert was destined to be a serious Manc love-in from the moment it was announced as part of the iconic Sounds of the City series. I’ve been a lifelong Elbow fan since “Asleep in the Back” (2001) and “Cast of Thousands” (2003) so this was an evening I had high levels of anticipation for.
Garvey strode out onto the stage with the rapturous greeting “Good evening you beautiful city”, to a rapturous reception from his home crowd. Opening the set with “Fly Boy Blue / Lunette” then onto “The Bones of You” intertwined with his warm words welcoming his fan like old friends. Garvey’s soothing words of tales of love, lost and longing set to a backdrop of his firmly based Northern roots strike a never ending perfect chord throughout the Bowl that set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Garvey’s adoring references to Manchester shone through as he introduced “Magnificent” by saying: “This song is about the big stuff, y’know?” which is met with a good natured heckle of “The Arndale?”. “Yeah, the Arndale,” Guy deadpans back. He informs the crowd that they have “finished an album today,” before giving a sneak preview with the melancholic strains of newbie “Empires”.
There was also a heartfelt ode to two hugely influential Manchester legends who passed away that had a profound effect on the band: Night and Day founder Jan Oldenburg and Scott Power of Big Hands and The Temple. Guy praised their huge contribution to both the band and Manchester’s music scene, stating: “They made it a place where you could gestate your dreams. They were both very dear friends of ours and we loved them very much.”
Throughout the gig Garvey conducted his audience through every note, each line was lovingly sung back, peaking with the band’s biggest anthem, “One Day Like This”, which lead into the finale of “Grounds For Divorce”.
My only complaint is probably one of greed on my part – there simply wasn’t enough. For a band with such a back catalogue I expected more from them, not in quality that would be faultless, but in the length of the set. I understand there will always be beloved tracks missing from a set list, but Elbow began later than the stated start time and finished with time to spare on the curfew.
“Leaders of the Free world”, “Grace Under Pressure” and “Golden Slumbers” being just a few of the notable exceptions. The Bowl concerts command a hefty price tag which more than deserved a longer set from a band with such a history with the city.