Isn’t it great when you discover something that you immediately love that you’d never even heard of before? That’s getting harder and harder to do in the plugged in world we swim in. So after the 20 year old British band Elbow finished the first song at their sold out concert here in New York, I knew I had discovered something special.
What blew me away was how I’d managed to miss them for all these years. All of their albums have sold a million copies, and they did the BBC theme for the London Olympics! To everybody at the show, they were more than familiar. They were the band they’d loved forever. They knew all of the words, cheering at each opening chord, and singing along on every song, creating an emotional connection that I rarely see at any show. I saw plenty of people crying with joy, napkins in hand, smiles ear to ear.
The leader of this love fest is a chap named Gus Garvey, who has the voice of an angel, and the gregarious personality of a game show host, or a master of ceremonies. He led the crowd on a musical journey, emoting with heartfelt gestures that never felt forced. It was the proverbial ‘Having Them in the Palm of Your Hand’ performance. The thing is, the music matched that performance. This group does what I coined ‘Beautiful Music’, which is not dissonant, pounding, or abrasive. Instead, it builds into a crescendo, like a symphony. It wells up like a fountain, swelling till it overflows, creating an overwhelming emotional response in the listener. Beautiful Music catches you off guard, and suddenly takes you over, leaving you marveling at the majestic nature of the experience, because of how it creeps up on you unexpectedly. A great example of this is the song “Mirror Ball’.”
Commentators have compared Elbow to Peter Gabriel and Genesis, which I can see, but to me, they are more like two other 90’s groups, House Of Love, and The Verve— two of my favorites. They’re like House of Love in the use of very original, different beats and rhythms, and The Verve in the sonic and emotional sense. In an interview I read, Garvey says that he doesn’t like when an artist sounds the same on every song, that it’s not fair to the listener.
Elbow changes it up through out their recordings and concerts, varying the volume, speed, instruments, and the beat. Each song sounds unique, like it’s own island. For example, the two women who are backup singers also play a violin and a viola, adding even more to the symphonic nature. Therefore, it stays fascinating till the end, and nobody wanted it to stop. It’s interesting to experience real intense longing for encores, not just a desire to not want to go home. You know it when you feel it. No one wanted to leave.
The night of the show, Elbow played The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They did one of their new songs, “New York Morning.” It’s great.