Gig review: Elbow, First Direct Arena, Leeds

Elbow singer Guy Garvey shows his appreciation to the First Direct Arena audience in Leeds on Tuesday. Picture courtesy of Anthony Longstaff.
Elbow singer Guy Garvey shows his appreciation to the First Direct Arena audience in Leeds on Tuesday. Picture courtesy of Anthony Longstaff.
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THEY may - for some in the audience possibly - hail from the 'wrong' side of the Pennines but for Elbow there will always be, it seems, a warm welcome in Leeds.

Let's face it, you're going to struggle to get a much more charming host for the evening than lead singer Guy Garvey, his immediate 'call to arms' from the audience at Leeds Arena on Tuesday night being met with the wished-for suitable response from the vast majority for the band's opening track 'Starlings'.

And so the affectionate, two-way love affair continued throughout the night, the charismatic Garvey regularly enquiring after his audience's well-being, in between asking to 'see those hands'.

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The crowd's willingness to respond was aided by the fact it was, apparently, Garvey's birthday, an occasion marked by a couple of impromptu audience renditions of 'happy birthday', before the Garvey took the lead himself with a more tongue-in-cheek version.

It was therefore a night of celebration, not just for the singer's birthday but of the band's career, the short UK tour arranged in part to capitalise on their 'Best Of' release from shortly before Christmas.

Following their collaboration late last year on 'Kindling', the closing track from No 1 album 'Little Fictions', Elbow and singer-songwriter John Grant developed the relationship further with the former Czars singer opening up for them.

Having Grant in tow is a pretty special tool at your disposal, the American popular enough in his own right to have contributed to ticket sales for his support slot alone, no doubt. He didn't disappoint in a 45-minute set, either, the highlights being a gloriously-crazed version of 'Pale Green Ghosts' and a stirring 'Queen of Denmark' being the standout moments.

With the audience quickly onside, Elbow proceeded to play from their seemingly limitless array of well-travelled crowd favourites. 'Bones of You', 'Leaders of the Free World' and 'Fugitive Motel' preceded the more mellow and poignant 'Fly Boy Blue' and 'Sad Captains' from 2014's 'Take Off and Landing of Everything'.

The powerful 'Any Day Now' from opening album 'Asleep In The Back' was given a rare outing before 'The Birds' - a track almost hemmed in somewhat in the studio - soared majestically, as is so often the case when unleashed live.

John Grant, who supported Elbow at First Direct Arena in leeds on Tuesday night. Picture courtesy of Anthony Longstaff.

John Grant, who supported Elbow at First Direct Arena in leeds on Tuesday night. Picture courtesy of Anthony Longstaff.

Always the charmer, Garvey keeps the mood light throughout before closing with a rousing 'Grounds For Divorce'. Grant returns to the stage for the encore to join them for 'Kindling' before disappearing again to leave the band to close with - yes, you've guessed it - 'One Day Like This'. When a song has taken on a life of its own live in the way it has, how could Elbow close their show in any other way?

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