We have lots going for us down here in Cornwall; amazing countryside, mystical and rugged coastline, awesome beaches and (probably) the best surf in the UK. We also have an adequate, if not brilliant live music venue in the Hall for Cornwall in Truro City (yes, City). What we don’t have very often, is the opportunity to take in new and current bands or artists of any magnitude (sorry Jose but your amazing guitaring is not the ideal live performance).
This all changed last night (Weds 7th October 2008), when newly crowned – 1/87/ winners, Elbow, took the long journey from Manchester to Kernow to scatter their gold dust in the furthest flung county in England.
The Hall for Cornwall is a small and intimate venue and not considered for the arena touring mega bands around at the moment (Oasis & Razorlight take note), but on last night’s showing, Guy Garvey and the rest of the Elbow crew owned it as if they’d had it custom made.
I have long held Elbow close to my heart and at the top of my ipod’s ‘most frequently played’ list. Long before the (thoroughly deserved, if belated) Mercury Prize, Cast of Thousands & Leaders of the Free World were never far from the player – unlike a large percentage of last night’s crowd, who, according to the ticket office, decided to take the plunge after the award was received. This isn’t a ‘they were better when no-one knew them’ dit. Far from it, everyone should know them and the guys deserve all the recognition that comes their way – I am confident in announcing that Elbow will not, to coin a phrase, ‘go all mainstream’ on us however many gongs they pull in.
Nonetheless, this was an educated audience and the couple of tracks from earlier albums were thankfully recognised by a large number and appreciated by everyone. Those newly converted on the back of The Seldom Seen Kid, are now aware that Elbow have been knocking out similarly outstanding tracks for a long time now.
The set consisted mainly of the Seldom Seen Kid LP and started, as the album, with Starlings. Still stood in the bar when the set started, I confidently pronounced to my fellow gig-goers that the sound faultlessly flowing from the speakers was just the CD (or probably ipod) that had been put on to let the crowd know that the boys were about to take the stage. Imagine my surprise (and embarrassment) when shuffling into the main hall to be confronted by Guy Garvey on centre stage already pointing in the air, head back and singing the opening lines with complete perfection.
Couple that with one of my party recognising him as the bloke stood next to him outside a local pub having a toke only an hour or so earlier with fans (yes, he is a newly converted Elbow fan hence the lack of recognition) and you begin to get an idea of what this band are about. This, I thought, is gonna be good.
The next 90 minutes or so did not disappoint. Garvey is a man who knows how to work a crowd – even a Cornish one. A far cry from egotistical ‘big’ band front men, who frequently fail to acknowledge the money spent and distance travelled by their adoring fans, only to let their ego & reputation do the singing and often resulting in a huge number of unsatisfactory gigs from people that should be doing better.
The small venue and being up close and personal with the crowd suits Garvey’s style perfectly. Respectful silence broke out after the appreciation of each track. The crowd wanted to listen to this guy – anyone who writes songs & music like this must be worth listening to. And he is. The attentive silence was greeted with a crash course in Cornish speech – brilliantly adopted (for a Manc) and somewhat bizarrely, a photo of a crowd member’s unborn child inside his pregnant wife. This was handed down from the stage and we were told to ‘make sure the man gets it’ No one would disobey – the audience were all his.
Even the encore was a revelation. The obligatory ‘load of rubbish’ (his words) was only to be offered if the crowd adequately sang a song of their own choice. 1,000 odd Cornish people singing the one line they know of ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head, doo, doo do-do-do-do do do, doo doo do do dooo…’ you get the idea, was deemed adequate and back they duly came.
And so it closed. The crowd happy and I guess many an Elbow convert returned home via the fog filled lanes of Cornwall. A truly captivating night which was topped off for me, when a couple of hours later on returning from a neighbouring bar, we walked straight into Garvey getting on his tour bus. He stopped when we shouted his name, came back down the steps and shook our hands as we thanked him for an awesome gig. I’d even bought a t-shirt to commemorate the night (most unlike me) – shame my ‘coolness’ stopped me from asking him to sign it.