Elbow at the 9:30 Club 08-04-09


“Guy Garvey for Prime Minister!”

Some over imbibed fan shouted the above phrase during a quiet moment just after the applause died down about three songs into Elbow’s masterful set at Washington, DC’s 9:30 club on Tuesday night.  While Guy Garvey playfully dismissed the call for him to enter the political arena, there was no doubt that most of the folks in the packed club would love to see it happen – as long as he and the band keep making music.

The guys in Elbow are the kind of guys you wish were in every band you listened to.  They’re quintissential everymen, albeit in a very British way.  Blokes at the bar, just like you, wrapped up in their own heads and having a beer with buddies while the little whirlpools of turmoil continue outside the door.

Elbow and Garvey capture this mood and sentiment in their music.  It’s elegantly delivered pub rock for the thinking pub crawler.  It’s as if the music comes with a wooziness of a third drink and a heartfelt sincerity that also arrives after you’ve had a few.

This time out, the band played a great set that drew heavily from their newest disc, “The Seldom Seen Kid” and peppered it with fan favorites from their whole career.  Each song was note perfect and Garvey’s voice was packed with emotion – even more so than on record.  He’s as close as you can come in rock ‘n roll to being a crooner.  He doesn’t just sing the music, he lives in it.  The rest of the band provides the perfect foil to his voice in dynamic instrumentation and powerful performances all around.

Elbow is often lumped in with Coldplay and Keane by the music press.  The ironic thing is, Elbow has more talent than a boatload of the aforementioned bands.  They’re not a product, they’re blokes at the bar.  Guys that are fumbling through it just like you.  Only difference is, they turn the hard parts into beautiful music.

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3 thoughts on “Elbow at the 9:30 Club 08-04-09

  1. I was there Tuesday night with a former romantic interest. We’d made plans to see them back in April, on the day the tickets went on sale, and then things went south between us.

    I never thought I’d see Elbow live. I’ve thought for about six years now, since Cast of Thousands, that they were my private, secret band.

    To see them live and in person, I couldn’t have been happier.

    She and I must’ve been about twenty feet back from the stage. It was hot and it was dark and it was cramped and it was humid, and damn what a performance.

    She didn’t know Elbow. I did, and I pointed out each of the band members as they stood there, for “Starlings,” with the trumpets.

    “Mirrorball” was magical. “The Stops,” as much as I listened to it in the spring, when it became my best friend, was truly special to hear live. The acoustic version of “Weather to Fly” was cool to witness.

    I’ve said to my friends, for as long as I’ve been pushing Elbow on them, that Elbow is the band I wish Coldplay could be, if only Coldplay had the guts to be that.

    I had no quibbles with the setlist. When Elbow rocked, they rocked. When Elbow did something quiet, it was beautiful. I could have listened to them for hours.

    Fantastic concert.

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