Elbow – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By Charlotte Oliver, July 2022
It was a perfect July evening in Scarborough that saw excited crowds of people streaming into its glorious Open Air Theatre to watch one of the most popular bands of recent years, Elbow, who have built quite a reputation for the brilliance of their live performances.
Support was provided by The Magic Numbers a great band that rose to fame in the early 2000s with hit singles including ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love Me Like You’. I was clearly not alone in my excitement at seeing them live again and they did not disappoint us, filling the summer evening air with the gorgeous harmonies of their pop/rock tunes that carry nods to early Neil Young, The Beach Boys and other great bands. The warmth and joy of their excellent performance made them an inspired choice of support for the main act.
Shortly after, and without the delay or fanfare of some acts, Elbow sauntered onto the stage, and, honestly, it would be difficult to say whether the audience or the band was more delighted to see each other. Guy Garvey, their charismatic lead singer, exuded geniality and went straight into chatting with the audience who were suitably delighted.
Opening with their hit ‘Dexter and Sinister’, from 2019 album Giants of All Sizes, the band sounded terrific. Formed in the 1990s (and with only one change to the line-up since) the skill and experience borne of playing together throughout those years makes for a faultless performance every time and this was no exception. There was also a jovial atmosphere on stage between the musicians that added to the immense bonhomie of the evening. Two string players in addition to the usual line-up meant that the sound created was exactly the one that people know and love.
Next up was a powerful rendition of ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ and the lush, haunting ‘Mirrorball’, before their massive hit ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, which heralded the start of one of Elbow’s legendary crowd sing-alongs. This was ably and entertainingly directed by Garvey, who had the whole crowd of nearly 8000 people in the palm of his hand, harmonising and holding notes as directed with great commitment despite not many of them appearing to be obvious choir members.
The set continued with old favourites taken from albums including Build a Rocket Boys! and the Mercury Prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid, as well as other ‘future classics’ (in Garvey’s tongue-in-cheek description). Of the fourteen songs, there were many highlights but, in my opinion, ‘The Bones of You’, ‘My Sad Captains’ (with backing vocals willing performed by the crowd), ‘Lippy Kids’ and ‘Grounds for Divorce’ were standouts.
Labelled as a British alternative rock band, there are also undeniable elements of traditional English folk in Elbow’s music: from lyrics about nature, love, death and what it is to be human, to the musical structure of their songs that embrace sorrowful and nostalgic minor keys moving to uplifting major choruses. The beauty of their songs coupled with Guy Garvey’s gorgeous voice made for some very emotional times throughout the evening.
Unsurprisingly, the very highest point of the gig was the band’s final encore song, ‘One Day Like This’. Garvey had the crowd split into two parts singing harmonies before the band joined in with the famous opening string lines and the audience’s joy reached new heights. It was an unforgettable moment.
The applause at the end of the gig was rapturous and clearly appreciated by the band, which all crowded together at the front of the stage to take a bow. Last to exit, Garvey casually sang the opening line from the chorus of Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’ (as covered by Madness). Without missing a beat the audience responded, ‘Love, love!’ – a sentiment that perfectly summed up this wonderful evening.
images: Cuffe & Taylor