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Elbow - Point Your Toes

20-Apr-2006 08:27 pm Contributed by: pete Concert Reviews
April 18, 2006
Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
The Opera House
Enema Rating: (8/10)
As I watched Elbow accurately reproduce a number of songs from their three full-length CDs, I was surprised that their stage versions were so close to their studio work. It didn't take long for me to realize that I had it backwards - it is their studio work that is, in fact, a faithful reproduction of their live show. And although the crowd was mostly stationary, it occurred to me that the reason is because Elbow's music is more cerebral than physical. The Opera House, with it's ornate arc framing the stage, chandeliers, and burgundy walls was probably the best venue in Toronto to host a concert for a band that is a perfect example of the current progressive rock movement from the U. K.

Elbow has been together for over 14 years, which may help explain why the band has such an easy-going stage presence, and is definitely proof that they're in this for the long haul. I should note that they've only been recording albums for the past 5 years. After being signed by Island Records in 1998 (smart company) and subsequently dropped in 2000 (stupid company), their debut album Alone In the Back didn't debut until 2001 after being re-signed by V2 Records (very smart company).

They opened the concert with Station Approach, which is also the opening track to their latest album Leaders Of The Free World (see Pete's Pick: Elbow) . Dressed in jeans and collared shirts, their mild disposition allowed the subdued Toronto audience to enjoy Garvey's relatively stationary performance that was carefully accentuated with sincere hand gestures. Although Elbow did not elicit a lot of dancing from the general Toronto population, two woman from Manchester used the ample space in the balcony to dance. They let me know they had been fans of the band for over 10 years, starting back when they lived in Manchester.

Garvey and the band were very clearly comfortable on stage. He dedicated Leaders Of The Free World to George W. Bush. Then in response to a song request from someone near the front, Garvey said "I'm afraid we're not going to do that one, we 've got a lot of other good ones, though", which the band followed up with a clear and tight rendition of Fugitive Motel. Then he declared that "everyone gets jealous, [but] I'm not a jealousy sufferer" before the band played Mexican Standoff. Somewhere along the way a joke was shared between Garvey and the two Mancunian women up in the balcony next to me. Although I was unable to make it out, it seemed to have something to do with putting "another log on the fire" and "pointing your toes". If anyone wants to explain what this back-and-forth between Garvey and the women meant, please contact me.

When Garvey indicated "I've got something new", two drums appeared on stage, one on either side of Garvey, that were used to pound out a new song that emphasized their progressive rock roots. In fact, it was at this point that I was overwhelmed by parallels between Guy Garvey and Peter Gabriel. Garvey's amazing and soothing vocals, the music and lyrics, and just the feel of what was happening on stage took me back 15 years (or so) to watching Peter Gabriel at Maple Leafs Gardens. Both the band and the crowd noticeably loosened up after this new tune, and as if Garvey was reading my mind, he let himself down into the crowd and wandered among the fans while he sang and the band played Forget Myself. Not something you see at every concert, but certainly not out of place at either a Peter Gabriel or Elbow concert.

After only an hour on stage, Elbow took the usual pre-encore break and when they returned Garvey came armed with a beer in hand. For the final song, Garvey shared some personal information about the band by stating that "two band members, Mark and Craig, recently became fathers". If you know Elbow's music, you will easily identify this as an appropriate lead-in for New Born. While seated and playing guitar, Garvey and the band put together an amazing 8 minute version that was the perfect closer to a near-perfect concert. My only complaint: I wish they had played at least another half-hour since I could've definitely listened to another four songs from this skilled and unique band. If they come around again, see them now before they start filling stadiums, this is a band that I can easily see pleasing a much, much larger audience.

Note: Thanks to Helena for the photos.


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