Elbow in Leeds: Guy Garvey has crowd enraptured as Manchester band puts on immense show at First Direct Arena

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
There’s not really much to this creating transcending experiences through music malarkey is there?

At least that’s how it feels when you’re in the presence of Guy Garvey and the rest of Greater Manchester stalwarts Elbow, who with their backing ensemble delivered a fundamentally unforgettable show for the Leeds faithful.

Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was covering the Leeds marathon earlier in the day or maybe it was knowing the quartet’s reputation for a glorious spectacle; but there was a feeling of inevitable joy upon heading to the First Direct Arena on Sunday evening.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Guy Garvey of Elbow performing at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.Guy Garvey of Elbow performing at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
Guy Garvey of Elbow performing at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

Not counting myself as a major Elbow fan, my main exposure to Garvey is through listening to his brilliant, blissful Sunday radio show on BBC 6music, where the combination of his parochial charm and flawless music taste makes for a great afternoon listen.

And it’s this same combo that makes Elbow such a great band. Seemingly calling on all manor of influences while anchored by the understated gravitas of Garvey’s wide-ranging vocals, their appeal is enhanced ever more so in the live setting by the stunning visual spectacle, exceptional instrumentation and inventive crowd interaction.

The breadth of influences and unique appeal is on show from the first song after the group rambles on stage to a rapturous reception and a fist-pumping Garvey offers an address of: “We are Elbow. You must be Leeds?”

The additional group of musicians at Elbow's show in Leeds.The additional group of musicians at Elbow's show in Leeds.
The additional group of musicians at Elbow's show in Leeds.

The rolling guttural groove of ‘Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years’ kicks in and Garvey comes gradually alive while delivering lines like “Here's to a doting mother's voice assisting me in every choice” with a gusto that marries the provincial relatability of Jarvis Cocker and the testimonial urgency of Nick Cave.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Not that Garvey is commanding the spotlight though. When he’s not giving anecdotal insight into song lyrics he’s ensuring appreciation is shown for his fellow bandmates and the sextet joining them onstage.

And it’s richly deserved. The horn and string offerings on ‘The Bones Of You’ and ‘Magnificent’ are soul stirring, while Jessica Harper’s vocal delivery that sees out the Pink Floyd-meets-Johnny-Cash groove of ‘Dexter & Sinister’ is utterly gorgeous.

Now 10 albums in, new track ‘Balu’, with its stinging synths, stirring bassline and faultless vocals is another highpoint before ‘My Sad Captains’ offers another. Battle worn horns, sombre refrains of “Oh my soul’ and ‘What a perfect waste of time” and an overall affecting yet approachable listen - it’s Elbow at their purest.

‘Ground For Divorce’ from their Mercury Prize-winning 2008 album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ closes the main set before an encore featuring the hushed grace of ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ and the life-affirming grandiosity of ‘One Day Like This’ brings a brilliant show - and day - to its perfect conclusion.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.